NORTHEASTERN 73, HOFSTRA 50
HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 9-5, 1-1 CAA
PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: tied for 7th
JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 17.0 pts, 4.8 reb, 3.8 ast, 3.3 to
Due in large part to a soft early schedule, Hofstra flew out of the gate at 8-1. Since the schedule has been a lot tougher however, the Pride has gone 1-4, and although that's still good for a solid 9-5 overall, lately, it feels more like the opposite, like 5-9, with all of Hofstra's recent offensive problems.
Though the scoring and shooting issues permeate throughout the whole roster, they are typified by the offensive slump of their best player, Charles Jenkins. Yes, Hofstra goes as Jenkins goes.
So, it's no wonder that on a night when Hofstra was held to a season low 50 points, Jenkins had the worst game of his still fairly young career, managing a career-low 3 points on just 1 of 9 shooting. It's also fitting that Jenkins' streak of scoring in double figures was stopped at 28 straight games (dating back to last season) in a game in which Hofstra failed to have a single player score in double figures for the first time in about 15 years. It was also only the 3rd time in 43 career games that Jenkins failed to score at least 10 points.
Head Coach Tom Pecora has said his team has been flat offensively over the past few games. So, how did they respond at Northeastern on Monday night? How about an 11-0 deficit before finally getting on the board 4:29 into the game? That deficit grew to 16-2, before settling at 33-18 at halftime.
If those numbers and facts weren't alarming enough, how about these? Hofstra trailed by as much as 53-26 with 13:18 left in the game after allowing successive backdoor baskets, the second on a power dunk. The Pride shot just 38% (16 of 42) from the field, and dished out just 7 assists (Jenkins only 1), while committing 25 turnovers (6 by Jenkins), 13 of them on steals by the Huskies' defense.
Hofstra's problem starts with Jenkins and the lack of help he's been getting. When he was off to a fast start in the first 8 games of the season, picking up from where he left off last year as the CAA Rookie Of The Year, Jenkins was averaging nearly almost points per game on nearly 50% shooting from the field. Naturally, opposing teams realized (especially as the schedule got tougher) if you stop Jenkins, you stop Hofstra.
Since then, Jenkins has failed to score 20 points over the past 6 games, averaging just over 11 points per game, while shooting under 30% form the floor in that stretch. While other teams have been keying on Hofstra's best player, no one else, except in brief flashes, has consistently stepped up. That's resulted in extra pressure placed on the sophomore captain, and in Jenkins pressing, and falling into a shooting slump.
The problem stems deeper though. It's in an offensive philosophy that has to change if Hofstra will be competitive in the CAA this season. Seeing this season's Hofstra players share the basketball enough or move without the basketball, forcing defenses to really work and expend energy, has been as rare as the Knicks making the playoffs in the past couple of years. It just doesn't happen. There's just too much one-one-one ending in a defense that knows what's coming, forcing Hofstra into a turnover, or resulting in forced, rushed perimeter bricks from the Pride's guards.
Admittedly, I know a lot less X's and O's than Pecora and his staff (we of course knew that -- I'm simply writing, they coach), but if I were part of that staff, I'd be preaching this to every player on the roster right now: Regardless of the game situation or score, anyone who takes a shot in the first 3 or 4 trips up the floor of either half before all 5 guys get touches, even if you're open, gets benched. Instill that rule, and watch how fast valuing possessions, sharing the ball, and assists increase, and how much needless and careless turnovers decrease.
Of course, it would take much more than that to develop the offense that Hofstra needs, and to break Jenkins out of his recent slump. But, what Hofstra's doing lately, simply isn't working. You make everyone touch the ball and feel involved in the offense, and suddenly guys that hadn't stepped up at all before, might, even with small contributions. And, guys that had stepped up some, will step up more. And, what that would do for Jenkins, is take the pressure off of him, and let him return to the player that started his Pride career on pace to be one of the all-time Hofstra greats.
I feel bad for Jenkins. He's in a tough spot as the team's best player, and captain, despite being Hofstra's youngest player, with no freshmen on the team. After the last home game (the loss to Drexel), Jenkins obviously felt bad that he wasn't living up to what he should be providing in terms of team leadership, but it's clear that he accepts that role with open arms, and wants very badly to be the leader that Pecora and his staff want Jenkins to be. However, as I said, it's not all on him. I goes hand in hand. If the overall offensive mindset changes, it will allow other players to make Jenkins better, just as Jenkins leading his teammates will make them better.
On another note, Monday night's loss seems like a benchmark of sorts to me. Long before I started covering Hofstra Basketball, I recall sitting in the stands as a fan, with my father, the day that Hofstra christened the opening of its current home arena 9 years ago last Friday (on 1/2/00), with 74-46 win over Boston University. Back then, it was current NBA player Speedy Claxton, one of the best ever to wear a Hofstra uniform, who led the way. I thought (and still believe) Jenkins could approach that level, and that's one of the key reasons I started this blog after seeing Jenkins burst onto the CAA scene last year, and having higher hopes for the All-American candidate this year. A couple nights after that win over Boston U., Speedy led Hofstra to an 84-45 thrashing over who, ironically?
Back then, Hofstra owned Northeastern in the America East, and for the for first 6 years after both schools (along with Hofstra's two biggest rivals to this day, former America East teams Drexel and Delaware), made the jump to the CAA, Hofstra had been a more successful basketball program. But, last year, Northeastern finally passed Hofstra, going 9-9 in the CAA while Hofstra was only 8-10 in conference play. The Huskies were the 6 seed in last season's CAA tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to eventual tournament champion George Mason, while the Pride was one-and-done, digging a huge early hole before falling to 9th-seeded Towson.
Now, after the pummeling that Northeastern gave Hofstra on Monday night, the Huskies are tied with George Mason for first place in the CAA at 3-0, while Hofstra is 1-2, with consecutive conference losses in the span of three days. And, I'm wondering how two programs who came from the same spot, when Hofstra was actually considerably ahead for awhile, are seemingly going in opposite directions. Northeastern has continued to advanced and has now passed Hofstra, while the Pride has regressed.
I have some further commentary regarding recruiting and out of conference scheduling which suggests that Northeastern's program is a measuring stick that maybe Hofstra isn't measuring up to of late, but I'll hold my tongue (or since this is a blog, my fingers) until we see what Hofstra does over the next several games, particularly the next four.
Now is the perfect time for Jenkins and Hofstra to live up to their team nickname, and play like they have some real PRIDE. Because after Delaware pays a Hofstra visit on Wednesday, up next week is a trip to conference favorite VCU, followed by rematches with top rival Drexel and then, guess who? That sudden benchmark again, Northeastern.