I was at the Hofstra game Wednesday night and I might have seen the worse team in the Atlantic 10 this year, Fordham. Now don't get me wrong, Hofstra played very well at times and won handily 60-40. But the Rams have very little talent after several players graduated last season. And the effort they showed in the second half didn't help matters. After only being down four at halftime, the Rams shot 25 percent from the field (as if 28 percent in the first half wasn't bad enough) and shot 1 of 5 from the line. The Rams really did not look inside whatsoever. The Rams are now 0-6 and I really honestly believe that they will go 0 for the Atlantic 10.
Now as I stated, Hofstra did play well in the second half especially. And one of the things I was most impressed with was the balance of their offense. Charles Jenkins led four double digit scorers with only 11 points, but he only took 11 shots (making 5 of them) and more importantly he had 9 assists. This is critical because Jenkins is the Pride's leading scorer, averaging nearly 22 points per game. However, teams will be keying on Jenkins and he will need to distribute the ball more since he is also doubling as their point guard. He often found Zygis Sestokas for open threes (Ziggy had 11 points). Another key was the emergence of the Hofstra big men. Greg Washington had his first of two double doubles (more on that in a second) with 10 points and 11 rebounds (and 4 blocks). Miklos Szabo added 10 points and 8 rebounds.
That balance continued to last night when the Hofstra frontcourt combined for 37 points in an impressive 90-79 road win over Towson in the opening CAA conference game for both teams. Now Charles Jenkins and fellow guard Cornelius Vines scored 24 and 21 points respectively. But it is getting the big men involved that has helped Hofstra. Washington again had a double double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and blocks. Dane Johnson had 9 points and 6 rebounds in only 16 minutes of playing time. Szabo had 9 points. The Pride Frontcourt combined to shoot 13 of 17 from the field as the Pride as a whole shot 49 percent from the field (subtract Nathaniel Lester and Sestokas' combined 0 of 9 and the Pride shot over 60 percent). The Pride also had a great night from the line shooting 25 of 31 for 80 percent (compare that with their 5 of 11 for 45 percent vs. Fordham). If the Pride can continue to have their frontcourt score a third or more of their points, it only opens up their guards for more scoring opportunities. Finally, the Pride had 19 assists to 11 turnovers. If they keep that ratio up, the Pride (6-1) will be very competitive in the CAA this year.
Towson (4-4) was led by Josh Thornton's 20 points. The Tigers shot 45 percent from the field but they killed themselves from the free throw line shooting 16 of 29 for 55 percent. They were also outrebounded 34-27 by the Pride. As for the Tim Crossin Burial Watch, Crossin did not play vs. Hofstra. He did play one minute in the Tigers' 82-61 win over UMBC. Crossin was 0 of 1 from the field.
Speaking of watches, the Chris Gadley Resurrection Watch continues, albeit with much better results than the Crossin Burial Watch. Gadley had another double double with 15 points and 10 rebounds but Canisius lost to Manhattan 81-63 Friday night at Draddy Gym. It was Gadley's third double double of the season. On the season, Gadley is averaging 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Thursday night showcased two big mid major basketball games. First, in a surprisingly non televised rematch of a major Bracket Buster game from last season, St Mary's traveled to Kent State. The Gaels returned the favor from last season defeating the Golden Flashes 75-69. Patrick Mills scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half as St Mary's held Kent State to 39 percent from the field including 22 percent from beyond the three point arc. Omar Samhan had 19 points, Carlin Hughes had 14 points and Diamon Simpson had 15 rebounds (which made up for his 2 for 8 shooting from the field for only 6 points). Chris Singletary and Brandon Parks each had 16 points for the Golden Flashes, while Al Fisher added 14. St Mary's is now 6-1 while Kent State is now 3-5, with five straight losses after losing to Western Carolina in overtime yesterday.
The other Thursday night game was televised on ESPNU and featured the top two teams in the Horizon; Butler and Cleveland State. I got to watch a lot of this game and to borrow a phrase from WWE announcer Jim Ross, it was a slobberknocker. Very tough, physical grind out it out play. Typical Horizon game..and I loved it. The Bulldogs would win this road game from the Vikings 50-48 when Zach Hahn hit a three pointer with one second left. This was after J'Nathan Bullock hit a bank shot for two of his only seven points with only five seconds to give Cleveland State a won point lead. This was after Butler's Shawn Vanzant had hit a three to put Butler a 47-46 lead with 19 seconds left. Get the picture?
Like I said, it was a slobberknocker. After those 19 seconds, I was like "Damn!" The game was close throughout with the largest lead being 7 by Cleveland State (and Butler's largest lead was two). Both teams played outstanding defense. The Vikings only shot 26 percent from the field (including 1 of 11 from beyond three) and the Bulldogs only shot 31 percent. Bullock, who was an all conference first team selection last season and who averages 14 points per game, only shot 2 of 11 from the field including that go ahead basket. Matt Howard, Butler's leading scorer at 12 points a game, only had 7 points with only 6 field goal attempts. Butler is now 7-0 after winning their second Horizon conference game a 79-71 win over Youngstown State. Cleveland State is now 5-4 after losing at West Virginia after having a halftime lead over the Mountaineers.
Then there was Davidson. Playing at a neutral site game in Charlotte, Stephen Curry only had 44 points in leading the #24 Wildcats to a thrilling 72-67 win over previously undefeated NC State with LeBron James in attendance. Curry had the final ten points of the game including an absolutely sick 30 foot set shot of a three with one second left on the shot clock to put Davidson up four 70-66. The shot had the crowd and especially James on their feet. Curry was 15 of 33 from the field and 10 of 13 from the line. Andrew Lovedale added 12 points and 9 rebounds as the Wildcats outrebounded the Wolfpack 41-33.
In other midmajor action, fellow Southern Conference member Charleston continued to roll with a 77-62 win over UNC Greensboro. The now 7-1 Cougars shot 55 percent from the field and had four players in double figures led by Jermaine Johnson and Antwaine Wiggins each with 12 points. Miami Ohio's incredibly tough road schedule seems to have helped the Red Hawks. Miami scored an impressive 68-52 win over Temple on Wednesday night, then followed it up with a 94-66 shellacking of Northwestern State yesterday. Michael Bramos had 26 points in the win over Temple then 31 in the win over NSU. Miami shot 52 percent in the win over Temple and held the Owls to 7 of 24 from beyond three. Especially impressive was the Red Hawks' holding Dionte Christmas to 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting. Before that game, Christmas was averaging over 22 points per game (and as noted in a previous posting, I have seen Christmas play a couple of games in the Charleston Classic and he is very very good).
#5 Gonzaga got off to a slow start at Indiana, but the Zags picked it up in the second half and drubbed Indiana 70-54. Jeremy Pargo, Josh Heytvelt and Matt Bouldin combined for for 43 points in the win. The Zags forced 24 Hoosier turnovers.
Finally, the Iona Lady Gaels had their first MAAC conference game Friday night at Rider. The Lady Gaels were up fourteen in the first half against the Broncs, 33-19 before a Bronc 27 to 15 run tied the game at 48 at halftime. Now this was a true test of a young Lady Gaels team. They had lost their previous game in by far their worst game of the season at home vs. Western Michigan. Now a team with no seniors had just seen a fourteen point first half lead melt away in a seemingly high scoring game. How would they respond in the second half. They came out and perhaps played their best half of the season as the Lady Gaels would down Rider 92-81. After the Broncs shot 58 percent in the first half, the Lady Gaels held them to 28 percent in the second half including 3 of 17 from the field. Iona also forced 29 Rider turnovers. The Gaels who also only shot 7 of 12 from the line in the first half shot 12 of 14 in the second half. Suzi Fregosi led the Lady Gaels with 21 points, with 8 of 8 from the line and shooting 3 of 4 from beyond three. Thazina Cook had 15 points, Kristina Ford had 14 and Naeemah Ricketts added 11 points. Pretty good response from a team that starts two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior.
Next posting will be a review of the week for the CAA.