OLD DOMINION 52, HOFSTRA 51
HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 21-11, 12-8 CAA
PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: 5th
CAA TOURNAMENT: CAA Quaterfinals
JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 19.7 pts, 4.8 reb, 4.3 ast, 3.3 to
If this was indeed the final game of the 2008-09 Hofstra Men’s basketball season, it was in many ways a fitting ending.
After the final buzzer sounded, having given all he had, but still coming up just barely short, Charles Jenkins lay on his back on the court late Saturday afternoon, his hands on his head, wincing and gazing up at the Richmond Coliseum rafters, perhaps pondering what might have been.
All season long, Hofstra went as Jenkins went, but the Pride had its most success when Jenkins was playing his best while involving his teammates.
With Jenkins averaging 21.8 points per game, shooting his best (47.5 percent from the field) and dishing out 4.3 assists per game, the Pride started the season 7-1.
As Jenkins went into a bad slump (scoring just 12.2 points per game on 27.1 percent shooting, while averaging just 3.2 assists per game), Hofstra likewise, had its worst stretch of the season, going 3-6.
When Jenkins caught fire again, scoring 22.7 points per game on 44.2 percent shooting, while averaging 5.2 assists per game coming into Hofstra’s CAA Tournament quarterfinal matchup with Old Dominion (21-9, 13-6 CAA), the Pride were a similarly hot 11-3.
Though Jenkins scored 27 points in each of Hofstra’s two CAA Tournament games this weekend, the Pride’s 79-66 quarterfinal win over twelfth-seeded North Carolina-Wilmington (7-25, 3-16 CAA) on Friday was drastically different from its excruciating 52-51 loss to the fourth-seeded Monarchs on Saturday.
On Friday, Jenkins’ points came in the flow of a balanced offense, on an efficient 9 of 16 shooting from the field. He set up his teammates with 9 assists and saw them shoot a combined 51 percent (20 of 39) from the floor while three of them, sophomore forward Greg Washington (14 points), junior guard Corenelius Vines (13 points), and sophomore forward Nathaniel Lester (10 points) joined Jenkins’ double figures scoring output. Jenkins’ team also held its usual significant rebounding margin (43-30) in that game.
A day later, Jenkins made the same 9 shots from the field and scored the same 27 points as the day before, but he took 7 more field goal attempts (firing 23 times), and was the only Hofstra player who scored in double figures. After than Nathaniel Lester’s 8 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field, no other Pride player took more than 5 shots and none scored more than 3 points as the Pride finished a dismal 34.6 percent (18-52) from the floor.
Hofstra’s sophomore captain was trying to find his teammates, but the Old Dominion defense took them away, resulting in Jenkins having a season-low-tying one assist (though I counted two key ones late in the game, so maybe the official scorer was napping on one, which I’ll get to in a moment). Though Jenkins often created his own shot, he worked hard for almost all of what he got. Everything seemed bogged down for the Hofstra offense much of the time, as ODU was able to the limit Jenkins’ driving, drawing and dishing to teammates which made Hofstra so successful down the stretch of the regular season. Senior Lithuanian forward Zygis Sestokas, a player who Jenkins had often found for three-pointers to create space on the floor during the second half of the season, was bottled up by the Monarchs, as he took just 2 shots from the field (both three’s, making one) in 24 minutes.
After a slow start which had the Pride trailing 9-2 just 3:50 into the game, Hofstra went on a huge 20-2 run keyed by Jenkins’ 7 points to take a 20-11 lead with 8:01 left in the first half.
But, just as Jenkins’ slump in the middle of the season, Jenkins struggled to put the ball in the hoop, scoring Hofstra’s only points over the next 3:33, during which ODU went on a 13-2 run (7-0 after Jenkins’ basket, a nice fast break finger roll, avoiding a charge) to tie the game, 24-24, with 3:31 left in the opening half. Jenkins then scored Hofstra’s the final 5 points of the half on a jumper and a three-pointer, to give the Pride a slim 29-28 halftime advantage.
Due to the physical, grind-it-out nature of the game, the Comcast play-by-play broadcaster described the earlier 13-2 ODU run as more of a 13-2 stroll.
Jenkins and the Pride’s offensive struggles returned for a good part of the second half. Senior forward Darren Townes’ free throw with 17:26 left in the game, tying the score, 30-30, was Hofstra’s only point in the first 8:25 of the second half, as the Pride failed to connect on its first eight shots (half of those missed by Jenkins) from the field, until Jenkins scored on a layup to cut the Monarch’s lead to 42-37 with 11:34 remaining.
For all the talk above of Jenkins needing to get his teammates involved more in order for Hofstra to win, it’s not as if ODU wasn’t trying to win the same way. It’s just that ODU’s go-to-guy scored ever so slightly more than Jenkins. Other than its own lone star, seven other Monarchs combined for only 22 points on just 23 percent (8–35) shooting from the floor.
Meanwhile, ODU junior forward Gerald Lee, from Uusikaupunki (I’ll be honest, I cut and pasted that rather than trying to spell it), Finland, scored a game-high 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting form the field (on mostly tough layups and dunks), while grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds, to help ODU to a 50-37 rebounding advantage, a reversal of the 48-39 margin Hofstra held on the boards in the teams’ only other meeting, a 60-51 Hofstra win on February 10th.
Again, as with the lack of supplementary offensive help for Jenkins, that wasn’t what Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora says is “Hofstra Basketball,” which at its most successful this season, has been predicated first and foremost on solid defense (which Hofstra demonstrated on Saturday) and winning the battle on the glass (which, the above numbers obviously show, the Pride did not).
It sounds like Hofstra had no answer for the ODU big man they call the Finnisher (yes, that one is spelled correctly with the two “n’s” because of Lee’s homeland), and whom Pecora calls “The CAA’s version of Tim Duncan.”
But, there actually was answer, something which Pecora and his staff may kick themselves for later on, when looking at the game film. Especially during Hofstra’s big 20-2 run and at other times during the contest, the Pride was successful at neutralizing Lee and the entire ODU offense with a very effective zone defense. However, Pecora opted to abandon the zone all too often, and go with a man-to-man defense, trying several of his bigs on Lee, which 6-foot-10, 250-pounder carved up for a bunch of points in the paint.
However, that said, two of the biggest baskets in the game came not from Lee, but from his compliments. Senior forward Jonathan Adams (7 points) made one of only two ODU three-pointers on the afternoon and sophomore forward Kenyon Carter (4 points) made a jumper to give the Monarchs the biggest lead of the game, at 42-32, with 9:57 to go.
Still, much like the end of the regular season, Jenkins and the Hofstra offense was able to rally itself with the right mix of Jenkins scoring and setting up his teammates.
And, Old Dominion did all it could to keep Hofstra in the game at the foul line, make a horrid 42 percent (8 of 19) of it’s free throws. But, after making big strides this season at the free throw line (shooting 69.3 percent on the season), the Pride went right back to shooting the same kind of free throw percentage which plagued it in big games in February and March in past years.
Though, don’t blame Jenkins. He went his usual steady self, making 7 of 8 free throws attempts, and don’t blame Hofstra forward Miklos Szabo, either, who scored all three of his points at the line in four attempts. The charity stripe culprits were Townes, who made just 1 of 2 free throws, and 0-for-2 performances at the line from both Lester and power forward Dane Johnson.
Hofstra used a 15-4 run to grab its final lead of the day.
After a Lester layup, Jenkins sank a pair of free throws to pull Hofstra to within 42-36, and then Lester made a tough leaner to make the score 42-38.
Jenkins then made a nice look, keeping Hofstra within four points (44-40) stopping at the foul line and lobbing to Johnson for a layup (that should have been an assist, I thought, but none was recorded). On the next possession, Jenkins made a great no-look bounce pass to Washington for an emphatic dunk to bring the Pride to within 44-42 with 4:45 left.
Jenkins then made a jumper to keep the Pride within 46-44, and on the next trip, came around a screen and buried a right-wing three-pointer (his only one of the game in 3 attempts) to put Hofstra ahead 47-46, with 2:06 remaining.
But, Lee answered, putting ODU up 50-47 with a layup and a tip-in sandwiched around a missed jumper by Jenkins.
Jenkins then got the hoop, drew a foul, and made two free throws with :29.6 remaining, to draw the Pride back within a point, 50-49.
Hofstra pressed, trying to force a turnover, but was forced to foul sophomore guard Darius James (who, shooting 0-for-7 from the field, was part of a starting sophomore ODU backcourt that was held without a field goal; guard Ben Finney went 0-for-4 from the field and didn’t score). James calmly made both free throws with :20.4 left for his only 2 points of the game, putting the Monarchs up, 52-49.
Jenkins again responded with a jumper, to get the Pride back to within 52-51 with :11.3 remaining, and Hofstra’s full court pressure forced a mad scramble on the floor, resulting in Hofstra being awarded possession and a timeout with :03.8 to go, even though it wasn’t clear that the Pride actually had possession of the ball prior to the timeout being called.
Nevertheless, it all came down to Jenkins.
This was where a return to that getting-others-involved-more (as earlier in the season) thing might have helped.
Jenkins could have taken a page out of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals.
Very similarly, trailing with the :03.9 remaining, and the Bulls likewise inbounding from the right sideline, Chicago didn’t go to Jordan, who had scored a game-high 33 points, when everyone in the building thought Jordan would take the final shot. Instead, Jordan’s teammate Horace Grant passed across the court to an open John Paxson, who drilled a left-wing three-pointer, and the Bulls won 99-98, to win the NBA championship.
Well, ODU, knowing the ball was going to Jenkins, forced him far from the hoop to get the inbound pass. Instead of improvising and looking for Hofstra’s version of Paxson, Jenkins stayed with the designed play from the huddle, and was able to dribble to the right wing, about 18 feet away, but three ODU defenders collapsed on Jenkins. The strong guard managed to get the shot off with a defensive hand on the ball, but it fell well short at the final buzzer, along with Hofstra’s dreams of making history in Richmond and getting to the NCAA tournament.
A very frustrating and painstaking way to end a season that gained a lot of momentum in February and early March.
What remains now, is whether Hofstra can salvage its postseason with an invitation to the consolation National Invitational Tournament, College Basketball Invitational (in its second year), or College Invitational Tournament (in its inaugural year).
The Pride would love to continue playing, especially Jenkins and his six senior teammates, but if the season is already over, going out with as tough a loss as Hofstra suffered on Saturday, will make Jenkins and his returning teammates as hungry as ever to get to the Big Dance next season.