I was at the Hofstra game Tuesday night vs. Iona, a home contest at the David Mack Arena. The Pride had battled back from a second half deficit to go ahead 61-58 with 2:32 left and had the ball. What happened then is what I have called in this blog before "Pulling a Hofstra". I started saying this back in 2007, where Hofstra up late with the ball in a close game decides to run down the clock and start their offense with about 8 seconds left on the shot clock. This is the strategy that Tom Pecora utilizes in a close game. Put the ball in the hands of your best player, let him run down the clock and have your best player create a play. It's a strategy that sometimes works, but often doesn't. Time and time again, I have noted that in these situations, points are your friend, not time, and that you should run the play with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. It has burned Hofstra before as noted in my link to my post from February where it killed them against George Mason. It burned them again on Tuesday night.
So back to Hofstra and the ball with 2:32 left. Hofstra wound the clock down to one second left on the clock before Cornelius Vines missed a jumper and Hofstra lost the ball on a turnover. Iona would cut the lead to one 61-60 before Hofstra actually ran their normal offense and Charles Jenkins hit a jumper to make it 63-60. Jenkins would hit one of two free throws to make it 64-60 before Iona again scored to cut the lead to 64-62. Then with 50 seconds left, Hofstra had the ball. My friend Mal, who was at the game with me, then predicted to us that Iona would get the ball back with 15 seconds left on the clock down only two. So again, Hofstra ran the clock down to about 8 seconds on the shot clock before having the ball knocked out of bounds with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. The Pride then ran an inbounds play where Cornelis Vines tried an off balance three pointer in the corner. The shot was an airball and Iona got the ball back on the 35 second clock expiring. So Iona had the ball back as Mal correctly predicted with 15 seconds left on the clock. Jonathan Huffman, a seven foot center who leads Iona in three point attempts, would then hit a three pointer to put Iona up 65-64. Iona would hit two free throws to go up three before Cornelius Vines' desperation half court shot went in and out at the buzzer as the Gaels scored the last seven points to win 67-64.
Well, a friend that I have talked about in this column many times before happened to be at this game as well. My friend noted two things watching this game. First, in two out of the last three Hofstra possessions, the best player on the Pride, Charles Jenkins did not shoot the ball. That my friend said was a huge mistake. You always want your best player having the ball at the end of the game. This is unusual for Hofstra. During Coach Pecora's career, he has always had the ball in the hands of his best player at the end of the game, whether it was Loren Stokes or Antoine Agudio. Even in other games this year, Jenkins has had the ball at the end of the game. Not in this case.
The second thing was that my friend correctly noted as I have stated as well, points are your friend in a close game, not time. His reasoning for this is that when you are playing an inferior opponent you do not want to shorten the game, especially when its close. This was Hofstra's mistake. They were up late in a close game against a team that going in was 4-7 on the season and just recently lost to a team that Hofstra had beat earlier in the season (Western Michigan).
There was also a third thing that my friend and I both noted during the game. Hofstra rarely ever looks inside during an offensive possession. Its actually common knowledge from the Hofstra season ticket holders during games. Another friend and Hofstra Law School colleague, Jeff Silberfeld saw me at half time. He noted to me that they weren't looking inside whatsoever. Late in the game, I actually yelled "Work it inside!". The fan across the aisle from me turned and said something like "Exactly!". We then joked that they never look inside. I have noted this several times before in this blog. Last season, the Hofstra guards took about 80 percent of the shots on the season. A Hofstra recruit, Yves Jules even said that one of the reasons he will be coming here next season is that "Hofstra guards take 78 percent" of the shots. I have stated several times that the more the Pride looks inside the more successful they will be.
So, let's look at the stat sheet from the game on Tuesday night. Hofstra attempted sixty two field goals from the field. How many were from the forwards/centers? Thirteen. Barely over 20 percent of the attempts were taken by the frontcourt. How many did they make? Eight. That's over 60 percent. Now compare that with the guards who shot 12 of 49. That's barely 20 percent from the field from a group that was taking 80 percent of the shots. So if you wonder why Hofstra shot 32 percent from the field, now you know why. Not enough high percentage inside shots.
So Hofstra had a chance to bounce back yesterday against New Hampshire up in Durham, New Hampshire. The Pride stormed out to a 17-1 lead against the Wildcats. Then a combination of the Wildcats hitting their shots and the Pride going cold resulted in UNH cutting the lead to 30-24 at halftime. The Wildcats came out and went on a 16-4 second half run to go ahead 40-34 with 12:48 left.
During this time, Charles Jenkins had picked up three fouls quickly in the first half and sat for most of the first half. It was probably just as well because Jenkins only hit on one of his first nine field goal attempts. In fact after Hofstra had hit on seven of its first twelve field goal attempts, the Pride would only hit on eleven on its next forty attempts and shoot 34.6 percent from the field for the entire game. But down the stretch Jenkins and Greg Washington would score eight of the last eleven Hofstra points as the Pride came from behind to win 62-57.
Again in this game, the Pride did not look inside enough. Of the fifty two field goal attempts the Pride had, fifteen only came from the frontcourt, not even 30 percent. This is a disturbing trend for the Pride. Take a statistical look at the Pride's last five games to see the trend;
vs. UNH, 52 FG attempts, 15 attempts by frontcourt, percentage made by frontcourt - 40%, team FG percentage -34.6%
vs. Iona, 62 FG attempts, 13 attempts by frontcourt, percentage made by frontcourt - 61.5%, team FG percenage - 32.3%
vs. UMass, 85 FG attempts (no that's not a typo), 28 attempts by frontcourt, percentage made by frontcourt 35.7%, team FG percentage - 36.5% - note that Miklos Szabo went 0 of 4 from the three point arc
vs. St Francis, 69 FG attempts, 24 attempts by frontcourt, percentage by frontcourt 45.8%, team FG percentage 36.2%
vs. Stony Brook, 52 FG attempts,10 attempts by frontcourt, percentage by frontcourt 40%, team FG percentage 39%
So, in four of the last five games, the Pride frontcourt had at most 34.7 percent of the field goal attempts. In two of the games they had less than 20 percent of the field goal attempts. When your team is shooting in the thirties overall percentage wise, its not wise to limit your team's frontcourt scoring opportunities. Even if you look at their win over Towson, which was prior to this five game stretch, the Pride had 57 FG attempts and only 17 came from their frontcourt. The frontcourt hit on THIRTEEN of those seventeen FG attempts and shot 49 percent as a team from the field.
So why not more looks inside, Coach Pecora? You have a six foot ten agile forward in Greg Washington who is shooting 58 percent from the field and shooting 70 percent from the line. Why is he not averaging at least 10 field goal attempts a game instead of the not even five per game he attempts? Dane Johnson averaged 54.5 percent from the field last year and is averaging 50 percent from the field this season. Why is he averaging barely over three field goal attempts per game?
Note to Coach Pecora - When your team shoots only 38 percent from the field on the season, you need to start looking inside more. Much more.