Game 9: vs St. Francis
HOFSTRA 68, ST. FRANCIS 52
HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 8-1, 1-0 CAA
PLACE, CAA STANDINGS: tied for 1st
JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 20.6 pts, 5.7 reb, 4.6 ast, 3.1 to
Pointing out his team's ability to win with defense and rebounding this season despite some offensive struggles, Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora drew a chuckle from his best player, Charles Jenkins, on Saturday, saying, "Defense you can do on toughness and passion. Eighty percent of that, there's not a whole lot of skill. Offense is much more complex in the concepts of spacing and timing. It's more like learning how to dance, and it takes time for them [Pecora's players] to learn their steps."
A very fitting statement, since improving team shot selection and shooting percentages will likely be among the biggest "steps" that Hofstra will have to take toward reaching its goal of making The Big Dance (the 2009 NCAA Tournament) in March.
Pecora's comments came after the Pride, which has been rolling on the strength of solid defense and rebounding since a season-opening loss to Clemson, overcame yet another poor shooting performance to win its 8th straight game.
Jenkins remains confident that Hofstra's offense will pick up. "I think we're just missing shots," he said. "We're taking good shots. I think as the year progresses, the shots we're missing now are going to fall for us."
Pecora is also optimistic. "It's going to take some [more] time to come together," he said.
Jenkins (named the Metro New York player Of The Week on Monday), unlike most of his teammates, has been normally very reliable from the field this season. Always the mark of a true team leader, he found plenty of ways to contribute and make his teammates better while suffering through a rare poor shooting performance at The Mack on Saturday.
Though Jenkins' shot wasn't falling (he was only 4-16 from the floor including just 1-6 from three-point range), he limited his shots in the second half and got involved in other ways, mixing it up in the paint to grab a career-high-tying 10 rebounds. Handling the ball well for the most part, Jenkins dished out 7 assists of Hofstra's 13 assists, turning the ball over just 3 times (none of which came in the second half).
The Pride led 33-24 at halftime. By then, Jenkins had made just 3 of 11 field goals (only 1 of 5 from behind the arc), but he had 4 rebounds and a team-high 4 assists.
For the first time this season, Jenkins didn't lead Hofstra in scoring, but he made both of his free throw attempts for the game (in the second half) to finish with 11 points and score in double figures for the 24th straight game, the 36th time he's done that in 38 career games.
When asked which number he was more proud of, the 10 rebounds or the 7 assists, he said "Definitely the 7 assists, it's important for me to get my teammates involved. I can't really worry about my shooting percentage because there are other ways I can get my teammates shots on the floor."
A very mature, team-first outlook from the 19-year-old who is Hofstra's clear leader and team captain despite being the youngest player on the team.
Though a major contributor as Hofstra's second-leading scorer last season, Jenkins was a redshirt freshman still learning the ropes on a Hofstra team that was upset by both Stony Brook and St. Francis a year ago. He said the biggest difference for him personally in avenging both of those losses this week, was "Stepping up as a leader. I was surprised," he said, "When the coaches made me a captain, but I know I have to lead this team."
The offensive problems on Saturday were by no means limited to Jenkins. Hofstra, like it's done a lot during its 8-game win streak, won primarily with defense and rebounding. Though the Pride shot only 36% (25-69) for the game, it crushed Brooklyn's Terriers, 57-33, on the glass, and held St. Francis to only 33% (17-51) shooting from the floor.
There were a few moments when Jenkins was particularly impressive, demonstrating great vision and athleticism, in electrifying the home crowd of 3,030. In the opening half, Jenkins assisted on a nice bounce pass to big man Miklos Szabo for a layup that gave Hofstra an early 9-7 lead. Later, he made a beautiful pass ahead to 6-10 forward Greg Washington (one point shy of a third double-double in the past 4 games) who broke ahead and caught it in stride for a layup to tie the game, 14-14. That play triggered a 9-0 run that put Hofstra ahead for good, 23-14.
In the second half, after an awful airball on his only three-point attempt of the half, Jenkins came right back on the next possession to drive and make a no-look pass to Washington (who was named the CAA co-player of the week on Monday) for a three-point play to extend Hofstra's lead to 40-28. One offensive possession later, Jenkins made a great lead pass ahead to guard Tony Dennison for a layup that made it 42-28, and on the next offensive trip, Jenkins somehow acrobatically jumped over and around a crowd of players to follow up a miss and score on a tip-in to put Hofstra up 44-28. The Pride's biggest lead was 63-42, with 4:26 remaining.
St. Francis Head Coach Brian Nash was impressed with Hofstra, saying "I really like their team. They play with good pace, they have good energy, and they're tough kids. I think they're going to be a tough matchup (for other teams) the rest of the year."
After the game, a modest Jenkins commented on the comparisons that are already being made to the other great Hofstra guards which have come before him. Jenkins said, "The comparisons they make are cool, but I really don't think about it now. I'll think about it when I'm gone [from Hofstra] and I get to look back at the stats in the games
that I played, but as of right now, I'm just livin' you know?"
Equally modest, Pecora (123-101 in his 8th season at Hofstra) made light of the nice accomplishment of passing former mentor Jay Wright (now the Head Coach at Villanova) for 4th place on the all-time Hofstra win list on Saturday, joking, "I don't get caught up in all that stuff. I think there's been what, 11 coaches at Hofstra? And, I'm maybe the 11th best."
Jenkins then divulged how he obtained the nickname "Baby Pearl" in honor of fellow Brownsville, Brooklyn native and former Syracuse great, Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, who now, coaches the girls' basketball team at East New York's Jefferson High School. "I used to go back and play in tournaments there [in Brownsville]," he said. "A janitor that used to work at the school we played in, School 275, said he used to watch Pearl play there said I used to remind him of Pearl, so to this day when I go back there, they still call me Baby Pearl."
Discussing how Springfield Gardens prepared him to be the collegiate All-America candidate that he is today, Jenkins said "It was a tough school but it made me tougher in a way. Springfield Gardens was a very supportive school and it helped me come here [to Hofstra] because I had a lot of good people around me. The prinipal, she did a good job talking to me all the time as far as recruiting. She was very experienced because she played basketball as well. I had a good staff around me that made me keep my head on straight instead of falling into the wrong crowd."
Before the game, Hofstra retired Bill Theiben's number 93, unveiling his banner hanging from the rafters prior to tip-off, after a brief ceremony honoring Theiben at center court. Theiben, who played at Hofstra from 1953-56, still holds school records for highest career scoring (26.9 ppg) and rebounding (24.2 rpg) averages, and holds single-game records for both points (48) and rebounds (43). He was also the first Hofstra player to win the Haggerty Award as the top player in the Metropolitan New York area in 1956. After graduation, Thieben was drafted by the Fort Wayne Pistons and played two years in the NBA.
Hofstra next will put it's longest win streak since it won 9 in a row to start the 2004-05 season on the line on Saturday, at UMass, which is only 3-6, but which upset 25th-ranked, defending champion Kansas, in Kansas City, earlier today. Until then, Jenkins and his teammates will have a few days off while taking finals, before Pecora says he'll put his team through a couple of hard practices on Thursday and Friday, prior to taking the trip up to UMass.