HOFSTRA 66, DELAWARE 61
HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 10-5, 2-2 CAA
PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: tied for 4th
JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 17.3 pts, 4.8 reb, 3.7 ast, 3.6 to
Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora has an expression he's used over the years for his best players when they've been in shooting slumps.
His philosophy is for guys like Charles Jenkins to not let a bad spell deter them. Pecora encourages them to keep shooting as much as possible, until they shoot their way out of a bad streak. He always uses the phrase "Shoot em' up and sleep in the streets."
Well, that was appropriate on Wednesday night at The Mack Sports Complex, because any tape of the shooting of Hofstra and Charles Jenkins should have been left in the gutter for the morning trash pick-up.
SOMEHOW, the Pride ended a two-game slide, evening their CAA record at 2-2, with a 66-61 win over Delaware, in a game that was downright ugly to watch on both sides.
Jenkins got plenty of good looks, but they'd often miss left or right (a technique issue), or other times, short (usually an indication of fatigue and not using one's legs to shoot, though Jenkins told me after the game that he wasn't tired from playing Drexel at home on Saturday, at Northeastern on Monday, and back home against the Blue Hens on Wednesday).
Jenkins was just 3 of 13 from the floor in the first half, and actually shot WORSE than that in the second half, making just 1 of 11, to finish a career-worst 4 of 24 (including 0 of 5 from three-point range) for the game.
He certainly wasn't alone, though. Delaware shot just 31% (18 of 59) and Hofstra only 30% (19 of 64) for the game, as both teams clamped down defensively.
I have to give Jenkins and the Pride credit however, for keeping their composure at the foul line despite the horrid field goal shooting. That's where the game was won, as the Pride shot a season-high 92% (24 of 26) at the free throw line, including a perfect 10-for-10 by Jenkins.
Pecora said "I've never been involved in a game where we shot that well from the foul line and that poorly from the field."
Going into the game, I had a suspicion about Hofstra's lack of ball movement I've seen this season and the rate of offensive success for both Jenkins and his team.
So, I decided to do something I had never done before while watching a basketball game, starting a little experiment.
Counting only front court possessions (not counting possessions in transition), I counted the number of front court passes (after the ball had already crossed the mid-court line) on each of Hofstra's trips up the floor, measuring how many times a positive result (a made shot, drawing a defensive foul, etc.) occurred versus how many times something negative (a missed shot, a turnover, etc.) happened, depending on the amount of front court passes Hofstra made.
I sensed that a lot of the Pride's offensive issues (and Jenkins' more recent struggles after a hot start) this season have had a lot to do with lack of team ball movement and a lack of Hofstra players moving without the ball.
I always believe that you have to make a defense work, make them expend energy and work to guard you, instead of being a stagnant, predictable offense, making it easy for a defense. And, Hofstra, during this recent stretch of poor shooting over the past couple of weeks, has certainly made it easy on opposing defenses by forcing ill-advised and rushed shots after very little ball movement.
My suspicions were proved true against Delaware. Not only were Hofstra's possessions run with less than two front court passes a vast majority of the time, but something positive happened increasingly for the Pride at the offensive end the more they passed ball.
When passing less than twice in the front court: Hofstra had a 25% success rate (10 positive plays out of 41 such instances).
When passing twice: a 36% success rate (5 positive plays in 14 times).
And, when passing more than twice: a 44% success rate (4 positive plays in 9 times).
Of course, when you knock down your shots, you can score after zero passes, and there's no guarantee of avoiding a turnover or bricking a bad shot after ten passes. But, by and large, ball movement, making an opposing defense expend energy all game, will lead to greater success and higher field goal percentages. It's probably no small coincidence that as team ball movement has decreased, Jenkins' personal slump has continued of late.
Jenkins struggles are not from lack of effort, however. After the game, he said "Last night, I was in the gym until about 1 [am]. It's very frustrating for me personally, because I feel I work on my jump shot a lot, but I look at my bench and my coaches tell me to stay confident and keep shooting."
He'll probably come out of it soon. All good shooters and players eventually do. Even consistent .300 hitters in baseball have stretches where they can't buy a hit for a couple of weeks. But, more unselfish TEAM play would go a long way toward helping Hofstra's best player out of his slump, which would also go a long way toward Hofstra's offense improving overall.