IONA 67, HOFSTRA 64
HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 8-3, 1-0 CAA
PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: tied for 1st
JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 19.6 pts, 5.5 reb, 4.5 ast, 3.4 to
Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora wouldn't share what he told his team after tonight's game against Iona, Hofstra's first home loss of the season, and second straight overall, on the heels of and 8-game win streak. The only thing Pecora divulged about that was that he "wasn't pleased" after he joking that how he addressed his team after their performance tonight wouldn't fit well at all with this week's festive holiday theme.
That about sums it up.
I caught this one first hand, courtside at The Mack. This wasn't one to see if you're a fan of sound offense with crisp ball movement and good shooting. Not much of that tonight for Hofstra nor for Jenkins, though Hofstra's young captain did pick it up some to score a game-high 19 points. It was the 7th time in 11 games that Jenkins was the game's top scorer and the 9th time he led Hofstra in scoring this season. He's now scored in double figures in 26 straight games, and in 38 of 40 games for his career.
Would he have preferred to be shut out personally, and not play a hand in a very tough loss however? Definitely.
Jenkins helped the Pride off to a good start, scoring half of his team's points in the first 7:50, hitting a three-pointer right in front of me, from the right corner, to put Hofstra up 14-7. But, he didn't score for the rest of the half, to finish the opening 20 minutes with 7 points on just 2-for-8 shooting from the floor, including 2-for-5 from downtown. Hofstra later matched its biggest lead of the game at 21-14 with 7:49 left in the half, but the Gaels (5-7) closed the half on a 16-6 run to go up 30-27.
Jenkins' first half shooting numbers were a microcosm of his entire team being unwilling to go hard to the hoop in favor of living on the perimeter for most of the game. Through just about the entire game, about half of Hofstra's field goal attempts at any give point, were taken from beyond the three-point arc. The Pride shot 20-for-62 (32%) including 9 of 29 (32%) from three-point range. Jenkins finished 6 of 16 from the floor, including 3 of 7 makes on three-point attempts.
Even more telling of Hofstra's living and dying by the three-point shot was that Jenkins was just 1 of 2 from the free throw line in the opening half, and that those were the ONLY free throw attempts of the entire first half for Hofstra. Pecora took note of his Jenkins and the rest of his team being content to settle for Iona's zone pushing Hofstra, saying "We were passive against the zone. They played a lot harder than us tonight. We didn't have a presence in the paint."
Hofstra improved that in the second half, getting to the line 20 times, making 14. "That's how we got back in the game and eventually took the lead," Pecora noted.
But, it was a lack of defense and a final late Iona run that ultimately did Hofstra in. Pecora said, "We didn't defend the way we had been defending. We had been holding opponents to under 40% from the floor and [Iona] shot 47% from the floor [tonight]."
That was the key tonight. Solid defense and rebounding can mask a lot of offensive deficiencies with ball movement and attacking defenses aggressively. During Hofstra's earlier 8-game winning streak, the Pride won a lot of games in spite of the same type of poor shooting I saw from them tonight. And, with Jenkins bailing his team out late. The difference then was, Hofstra, as Pecora said, caused other teams to misfire, and dominated opponents on the boards. Jenkins nearly came through late again, and Hofstra won the rebounding battle again (this time, 40-33), but the 47% shooting b(21-45) by Iona was too much to hide the same team shooting woes that once again plagued Hofstra tonight.
Another thing that hurt Hofstra was the play of a different Jenkins -- Jermel Jenkins -- a 5-11 freshman guard, who led Iona with 14 points off the bench in 28 minutes, on 6 of 10 shooting from the field, including 2 makes in 3 attempts from three point range.
Hofstra fell behind by as much as six, 48-42, with 10:30 left, but Jenkins finally started to get in the lane as well as hitting a clutch late three-pointer to help Hofstra charge back late. He scored 10 points, including the Pride's last 6 points, during a 22-10 run that gave his team a 64-60 lead with 1:01 left.
Up 64-62 though, Hofstra was unable to get Jenkins the ball, and ended up with a bad left wing three from guard Cornelius Vines that caught nothing but air from the left wing as the shot clock expired.
That set up an unlikely ending, as 7-foot forward Jonathan Huffman, who badly bricked his only other three-point attempt of the game earlier in the second half, nailed a trey from about the same spot with :04.6 left, to put Iona up for good, 65-64.
Jenkins then received an inbounds pass, but lost the dribble out of bounds along the left sideline against Iona's fullcourt press with :03.3 left.
After a Hofstra foul and two Iona free throws with :02.0 left made it 67-64, Gaels, the Pride got the ball in to Vines at center midcourt (with Jenkins in the backcourt on the right side). Vines launched a shot from just inside the midcourt line that hit the backboard before going around the rim and out as time expired on a heartbreaking loss for the Pride.
I mentioned in the previous blog that Jenkins was shooting at a 49% clip by halftime of the Stony Brook game and just has struggled since. Since that point, he's now just 14 of 48 (29%) from the floor.
Pecora believes other teams have been making it a point to take Hofstra's most reliable scorer out of his game. But, he remains confident that Jenkins will soon find his way as long as he can get to the foul line and find other ways to create better looks for himself.
"He's the focal point of every people do, Pecora said. "He's got to find more creative ways and be patient and take good shots. In the course of a season he's going to go through some shooting slumps. All players do, but the great ones figure out ways of getting to spots on the floor where they know they're going to make shots or go to the foul line. If you do that, you get yourself healthy at the foul line making shots. He only took 6 free throws [tonight]. Charles will come around."
Hofstra will have plenty of time to regroup and learn from this loss. Three off days are next before the Pride plays a non-conference game in New Hampshire on Saturday. And, then it's another week off before what I call the "real" season starts, as the Pride will finally get into CAA play hosting Drexel on Saturday, January 3rd.
So, talk to you over the weekend, and until then, Happy Holidays, all!