HOFSTRA 79, NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 66
HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 21-10, 12-7 CAA
PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: 5th
CAA TOURNAMENT: CAA Quaterfinals
JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 19.4 pts, 4.7 reb, 4.4 ast, 3.4 to
As a freshman, Charles Jenkins felt a little cheated by how short his first CAA Tournament experience lasted. Last season, Hofstra, as an eight seed, had an early 8-7 lead before going ice cold in allowing ninth-seeded Towson to finish the half on a 24-5 run to lead 31-13 at halftime.
Although Jenkins finished that game well (as one of only two Hofstra players to score in double figures that day, scoring 14 points, going 5-for-10 from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 at the foul line) and the Pride got to within 5 points late, Hofstra went home early, losing the first game of the 2008 CAA Tournament, 81-66.
The always unselfish Jenkins said he’d have traded his CAA Rookie Of The Year award for at least a couple more games in last year’s CAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora was worried about Hofstra not playing what he simply calls “Hofstra Basketball,” that his team hadn’t been defending and rebounding the way he knew it was capable of down the stretch of the regular season. That feeling was especially so, given Hofstra’s first-round CAA Tournament matchup with last place but dangerous, twelfth-seeded North Carolina-Wilmington (7-25, 3-16 CAA), which gave Hofstra two very close games earlier this season (the Pride won 80-78 at the buzzer in Wilmington on January 28th and beat the Seahawks in the February 28th regular season finale at home, 88-81, in overtime).
Both Jenkins and Pecora made sure that Hofstra wouldn’t leave Richmond, Virginia early this time.
Jenkins was brilliant, making 8 of his first 13 shots, en route to a game-high 27 points, making 9 of 16 shots from the field and all 8 of his free throw attempts, while grabbing four rebounds and handing out a game-high 9 assists. And, Pecora recommitted his team to “Hofstra Basketball.”
Hofstra and Jenkins set the tone early and for the most part cruised after a 12-0 run broke open a close game. Jenkins had a hand in 10 of those 12 points, making a three-pointer, grabbing a rebound and going the length of the floor for a layup, before assisting on both a dunk by senior forward Dane Johnson (6 points, 7 rebounds) and a three-pointer by junior guard Cornelius Vines (13 points off the bench) which pushed Hofstra’s lead at the 8:37 mark of the first half to a 29-13 margin from which UNCW could never recover. At that point, Hofstra had some nice balance with Jenkins having a game-high 7 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor, and sophomore forward Greg Washington (career-high 14 points, 12 rebounds) and Vines scoring 6 points apiece. The Pride was shooting 57 percent (13-for-23) from the field and was limiting the Seahawks to just 23 percent (5-21) from the floor, while holding a 17-11 rebounding advantage.
Those trends lasted pretty much the rest of the way. Hofstra shot 53 percent (16-30) from the field in the first half and for the game (29-55) and held UNCW to just 28 percent (8-29) from the floor in the opening half, and 32 percent (18-57) for the game. The Pride also dominated the boards, 43-30.
UNCW started the second half on a 6-2 run to pull within 41-35 with 16:11 remaining, but Jenkins made his next four shots and assisted on a jumper by Washington during a decisive 10-2 that pushed Hofstra’s lead back to 51-37 with 13:15 left.
The lead never got lower than 10 points the rest of the way and Hofstra led by as many as 16 points as it was able to cruise into the CAA Quarterfinals, in which it faces a very interesting matchup on Saturday, against fourth-seed Old Dominion, which received an opening round bye. Why is Saturday’s contest highly anticipated for CAA fans other than featuring two very even teams in a usually close four vs. five matchup?
Well, for one, the game will feature the two hottest teams in the CAA tournament: Hofstra will come in winners of 7 of its past 8 games, and Old Dominion (20-9, 12-6 CAA) enters with 5 straight wins, with victories in 9 of its past 10 games.
But, especially interesting are these tidbits: 1) The Monarchs only loss in those 10 games? At Hofstra (60-51, on February 10th); and 2) Old Dominion has beaten every team in the CAA with the exception of… Hofstra.
Expect a close, hard fought game, which bodes well for Hofstra, the best “close win” team in the nation, with a 13-2 record in games decided by five points or less, or in overtime. One big reason for that success is how clutch Jenkins has been in his college career late in close games. Hofstra will certainly need to be led by Jenkins but it may very well have to especially call on him late again, on Saturday.