Hofstra Star Charles Jenkins' Sophomore Season by jjwagner
Jon Wagner gives a game-by-game inside look at the 2008-09 college basketball season of the former Springfield Gardens High School standout.
Mar 08, 2009 | 53398 views | 0 0 comments | 106 106 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Jenkins, Hofstra Fall Just Short In CAA Quarterfinals
by jjwagner
Mar 07, 2009 | 8800 views | 0 0 comments | 135 135 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
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SAT 03/07/09

OLD DOMINION 52, HOFSTRA 51

HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 21-11, 12-8 CAA

PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: 5th

CAA TOURNAMENT: CAA Quaterfinals

JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 19.7 pts, 4.8 reb, 4.3 ast, 3.3 to

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If this was indeed the final game of the 2008-09 Hofstra Men’s basketball season, it was in many ways a fitting ending.



After the final buzzer sounded, having given all he had, but still coming up just barely short, Charles Jenkins lay on his back on the court late Saturday afternoon, his hands on his head, wincing and gazing up at the Richmond Coliseum rafters, perhaps pondering what might have been.

All season long, Hofstra went as Jenkins went, but the Pride had its most success when Jenkins was playing his best while involving his teammates.

With Jenkins averaging 21.8 points per game, shooting his best (47.5 percent from the field) and dishing out 4.3 assists per game, the Pride started the season 7-1.

As Jenkins went into a bad slump (scoring just 12.2 points per game on 27.1 percent shooting, while averaging just 3.2 assists per game), Hofstra likewise, had its worst stretch of the season, going 3-6.

When Jenkins caught fire again, scoring 22.7 points per game on 44.2 percent shooting, while averaging 5.2 assists per game coming into Hofstra’s CAA Tournament quarterfinal matchup with Old Dominion (21-9, 13-6 CAA), the Pride were a similarly hot 11-3.

Though Jenkins scored 27 points in each of Hofstra’s two CAA Tournament games this weekend, the Pride’s 79-66 quarterfinal win over twelfth-seeded North Carolina-Wilmington (7-25, 3-16 CAA) on Friday was drastically different from its excruciating 52-51 loss to the fourth-seeded Monarchs on Saturday.

On Friday, Jenkins’ points came in the flow of a balanced offense, on an efficient 9 of 16 shooting from the field. He set up his teammates with 9 assists and saw them shoot a combined 51 percent (20 of 39) from the floor while three of them, sophomore forward Greg Washington (14 points), junior guard Corenelius Vines (13 points), and sophomore forward Nathaniel Lester (10 points) joined Jenkins’ double figures scoring output. Jenkins’ team also held its usual significant rebounding margin (43-30) in that game.

A day later, Jenkins made the same 9 shots from the field and scored the same 27 points as the day before, but he took 7 more field goal attempts (firing 23 times), and was the only Hofstra player who scored in double figures. After than Nathaniel Lester’s 8 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field, no other Pride player took more than 5 shots and none scored more than 3 points as the Pride finished a dismal 34.6 percent (18-52) from the floor.

Hofstra’s sophomore captain was trying to find his teammates, but the Old Dominion defense took them away, resulting in Jenkins having a season-low-tying one assist (though I counted two key ones late in the game, so maybe the official scorer was napping on one, which I’ll get to in a moment). Though Jenkins often created his own shot, he worked hard for almost all of what he got. Everything seemed bogged down for the Hofstra offense much of the time, as ODU was able to the limit Jenkins’ driving, drawing and dishing to teammates which made Hofstra so successful down the stretch of the regular season. Senior Lithuanian forward Zygis Sestokas, a player who Jenkins had often found for three-pointers to create space on the floor during the second half of the season, was bottled up by the Monarchs, as he took just 2 shots from the field (both three’s, making one) in 24 minutes.

After a slow start which had the Pride trailing 9-2 just 3:50 into the game, Hofstra went on a huge 20-2 run keyed by Jenkins’ 7 points to take a 20-11 lead with 8:01 left in the first half.

But, just as Jenkins’ slump in the middle of the season, Jenkins struggled to put the ball in the hoop, scoring Hofstra’s only points over the next 3:33, during which ODU went on a 13-2 run (7-0 after Jenkins’ basket, a nice fast break finger roll, avoiding a charge) to tie the game, 24-24, with 3:31 left in the opening half. Jenkins then scored Hofstra’s the final 5 points of the half on a jumper and a three-pointer, to give the Pride a slim 29-28 halftime advantage.

Due to the physical, grind-it-out nature of the game, the Comcast play-by-play broadcaster described the earlier 13-2 ODU run as more of a 13-2 stroll.

Jenkins and the Pride’s offensive struggles returned for a good part of the second half. Senior forward Darren Townes’ free throw with 17:26 left in the game, tying the score, 30-30, was Hofstra’s only point in the first 8:25 of the second half, as the Pride failed to connect on its first eight shots (half of those missed by Jenkins) from the field, until Jenkins scored on a layup to cut the Monarch’s lead to 42-37 with 11:34 remaining.

For all the talk above of Jenkins needing to get his teammates involved more in order for Hofstra to win, it’s not as if ODU wasn’t trying to win the same way. It’s just that ODU’s go-to-guy scored ever so slightly more than Jenkins. Other than its own lone star, seven other Monarchs combined for only 22 points on just 23 percent (8–35) shooting from the floor.

Meanwhile, ODU junior forward Gerald Lee, from Uusikaupunki (I’ll be honest, I cut and pasted that rather than trying to spell it), Finland, scored a game-high 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting form the field (on mostly tough layups and dunks), while grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds, to help ODU to a 50-37 rebounding advantage, a reversal of the 48-39 margin Hofstra held on the boards in the teams’ only other meeting, a 60-51 Hofstra win on February 10th.

Again, as with the lack of supplementary offensive help for Jenkins, that wasn’t what Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora says is “Hofstra Basketball,” which at its most successful this season, has been predicated first and foremost on solid defense (which Hofstra demonstrated on Saturday) and winning the battle on the glass (which, the above numbers obviously show, the Pride did not).

It sounds like Hofstra had no answer for the ODU big man they call the Finnisher (yes, that one is spelled correctly with the two “n’s” because of Lee’s homeland), and whom Pecora calls “The CAA’s version of Tim Duncan.”

But, there actually was answer, something which Pecora and his staff may kick themselves for later on, when looking at the game film. Especially during Hofstra’s big 20-2 run and at other times during the contest, the Pride was successful at neutralizing Lee and the entire ODU offense with a very effective zone defense. However, Pecora opted to abandon the zone all too often, and go with a man-to-man defense, trying several of his bigs on Lee, which 6-foot-10, 250-pounder carved up for a bunch of points in the paint.

However, that said, two of the biggest baskets in the game came not from Lee, but from his compliments. Senior forward Jonathan Adams (7 points) made one of only two ODU three-pointers on the afternoon and sophomore forward Kenyon Carter (4 points) made a jumper to give the Monarchs the biggest lead of the game, at 42-32, with 9:57 to go.

Still, much like the end of the regular season, Jenkins and the Hofstra offense was able to rally itself with the right mix of Jenkins scoring and setting up his teammates.

And, Old Dominion did all it could to keep Hofstra in the game at the foul line, make a horrid 42 percent (8 of 19) of it’s free throws. But, after making big strides this season at the free throw line (shooting 69.3 percent on the season), the Pride went right back to shooting the same kind of free throw percentage which plagued it in big games in February and March in past years.

Though, don’t blame Jenkins. He went his usual steady self, making 7 of 8 free throws attempts, and don’t blame Hofstra forward Miklos Szabo, either, who scored all three of his points at the line in four attempts. The charity stripe culprits were Townes, who made just 1 of 2 free throws, and 0-for-2 performances at the line from both Lester and power forward Dane Johnson.

Hofstra used a 15-4 run to grab its final lead of the day.

After a Lester layup, Jenkins sank a pair of free throws to pull Hofstra to within 42-36, and then Lester made a tough leaner to make the score 42-38.

Jenkins then made a nice look, keeping Hofstra within four points (44-40) stopping at the foul line and lobbing to Johnson for a layup (that should have been an assist, I thought, but none was recorded). On the next possession, Jenkins made a great no-look bounce pass to Washington for an emphatic dunk to bring the Pride to within 44-42 with 4:45 left.

Jenkins then made a jumper to keep the Pride within 46-44, and on the next trip, came around a screen and buried a right-wing three-pointer (his only one of the game in 3 attempts) to put Hofstra ahead 47-46, with 2:06 remaining.

But, Lee answered, putting ODU up 50-47 with a layup and a tip-in sandwiched around a missed jumper by Jenkins.

Jenkins then got the hoop, drew a foul, and made two free throws with :29.6 remaining, to draw the Pride back within a point, 50-49.

Hofstra pressed, trying to force a turnover, but was forced to foul sophomore guard Darius James (who, shooting 0-for-7 from the field, was part of a starting sophomore ODU backcourt that was held without a field goal; guard Ben Finney went 0-for-4 from the field and didn’t score). James calmly made both free throws with :20.4 left for his only 2 points of the game, putting the Monarchs up, 52-49.

Jenkins again responded with a jumper, to get the Pride back to within 52-51 with :11.3 remaining, and Hofstra’s full court pressure forced a mad scramble on the floor, resulting in Hofstra being awarded possession and a timeout with :03.8 to go, even though it wasn’t clear that the Pride actually had possession of the ball prior to the timeout being called.

Nevertheless, it all came down to Jenkins.

This was where a return to that getting-others-involved-more (as earlier in the season) thing might have helped.

Jenkins could have taken a page out of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals.

Very similarly, trailing with the :03.9 remaining, and the Bulls likewise inbounding from the right sideline, Chicago didn’t go to Jordan, who had scored a game-high 33 points, when everyone in the building thought Jordan would take the final shot. Instead, Jordan’s teammate Horace Grant passed across the court to an open John Paxson, who drilled a left-wing three-pointer, and the Bulls won 99-98, to win the NBA championship.

Well, ODU, knowing the ball was going to Jenkins, forced him far from the hoop to get the inbound pass. Instead of improvising and looking for Hofstra’s version of Paxson, Jenkins stayed with the designed play from the huddle, and was able to dribble to the right wing, about 18 feet away, but three ODU defenders collapsed on Jenkins. The strong guard managed to get the shot off with a defensive hand on the ball, but it fell well short at the final buzzer, along with Hofstra’s dreams of making history in Richmond and getting to the NCAA tournament.

A very frustrating and painstaking way to end a season that gained a lot of momentum in February and early March.

What remains now, is whether Hofstra can salvage its postseason with an invitation to the consolation National Invitational Tournament, College Basketball Invitational (in its second year), or College Invitational Tournament (in its inaugural year).

The Pride would love to continue playing, especially Jenkins and his six senior teammates, but if the season is already over, going out with as tough a loss as Hofstra suffered on Saturday, will make Jenkins and his returning teammates as hungry as ever to get to the Big Dance next season.
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Jenkins Leads Hofstra To CAA Quarterfinals
by jjwagner
Mar 06, 2009 | 8239 views | 0 0 comments | 131 131 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
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WED 03/06/09

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

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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.
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Deja Two… #22 Named To CAA First Team, Makes 2 Honors For 2 Straight Weeks
by jjwagner
Mar 05, 2009 | 10584 views | 0 0 comments | 126 126 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Charles Jenkins’ uniform number 22 seems to fit him very well, especially lately.

Hofstra’s star sophomore guard, wearing TWO-TWO, excelling at the TWO (shooting guard primarily, with some One, point guard, mixed in), in Year TWO (of his college career), won TWO prestigious awards, in each of the final TWO weeks of the regular season.

TWO weeks ago, Jenkins won these TWO awards: the Met Player Of The Week as the best college player in the New York metro area and the CAA Player Of The Week.

That was followed up this week, with TWO more awards: the Co-CAA Player Of The Week and the CAA Player Of The Year, which he earned on the eve of the CAA Tournament, on Thursday, March 5th.

Ironically, with all of these TWO’s, it was Jenkins going from Hofstra’s number TWO option (behind the Pride’s all-time leading scorer Antoine Agudio) to the team’s first choice offensively, which helped him earn his first all-CAA team honor.

Increasing his scoring output from 15.0 points per game during his CAA Rookie Of The Year season as a freshman, Jenkins has led Hofstra in scoring this year, and is the number TWO scorer in the CAA, averaging 19.2 points per game, behind only TWO-time CAA Player Of The Year and likely future NBA first-round draft pick Eric Maynor.

Jenkins has scored in double figures in 29 of 30 games and has reached 20 or more points in 14 games this season. He ranks seventh in CAA with 4.2 assists per game and eighth in the conference with 1.5 steals per game, while averaging 4.8 rebounds per game.

The boxscore-filling Jenkins is one of only six Division I men to average at least 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.

Jenkins scored over 30 points for time this season, reaching a career-high three of those times. He had 31 points in a November 16th win over East Tennessee State; he posted 33 points at North Carolina-Wilmington on January 28th; and exactly one month later, in Hofstra’s final regular season game on February 28th, Jenkins scored 35 points to again beat UNCW. In that game, Jenkins became the fastest Hofstra player ever to reach 1,000 points. Only (what else… TWO) Hofstra players have scored 1,000 points as sophomores: Jenkins and Agudio. Finishing that game with 1,011 career points, Jenkins is on pace to become Hofstra’s all-time leading scorer. He’s currently 64 points ahead of Agudio, who 947 points at the same stage of their careers (59 games).

It’s a good bet that with Maynor graduating, Jenkins, the number TWO player in the CAA, might follow in Maynor’s footsteps in winning TWO CAA Player Of The Year awards in his final TWO years in the conference.

As Hofstra gears up for the CAA tournament, it will be trying to accomplish what many other mid-majors are hopeful of achieving: trying to get to an NCAA tournament via the only route possible… winning its conference tournament.

On that note, Hofstra shares a connection with a fellow mid-major who has a notable alum: former “Love Connection” host Chuck Woolery is a graduate of The Ohio Valley Conference’s Moorehead State, which wears the same shades of blue and gold as Hofstra.

Woolery’s famous line before every commercial break, of course: “We’ll be back in TWO and TWO” referring to TWO minutes and TWO seconds.

Regardless of how the Pride fares in this year’s CAA tournament, with TWO years left at Hofstra for Jenkins, and considering the TWO years he’s already put up, expect the rafters at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead to someday hang the jersey numbers of Jenkins’ … TWO and TWO.

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Note:

6-foot-10 sophomore forward Greg Washington (Centereach, NY) was named to the CAA All-Defensive team, who ranks (what else... number TWO) with 2.3 blocks per game in the CAA. Washington is also just TWO (there's that number again, it's contagious!) blocks away from tying the school single-season record of 66, set by JUCO transfer Adrian Uter in 2006.
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Jenkins Earns CAA Player Of The Week… Again
by jjwagner
Mar 02, 2009 | 10773 views | 1 1 comments | 132 132 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Now that the 2008-09 Hofstra Men’s Basketball regular season is done, the Pride knows that it will go as far as its best player, Super Sophomore Charles Jenkins, will take it.

Notice to the rest of the CAA for the upcoming CAA Tournament in Richmond, VA next weekend: Jenkins might be peaking at just the right time to carry the Pride pretty far.

One week after earning the CAA’s sole Player Of The Week award on February 23rd, Jenkins was named the Co-CAA Player Of The Week along with Delaware’s Marc Egerson, on Monday, March 2nd, after averaging 27.0 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.0 steals in two games last week.

In a 76-55 Hofstra loss at Georgia State on February 25th, Jenkins was the only Pride player to score in double figures, posting 19 points, making 7 of 15 shots from the field and 5 of 7 free throws, while adding 3 assists and a steal.

Three days later, Jenkins scored a career-high against North Carolina-Wilmington for the second time this season, pouring in a game-high 35 points, to lead Hofstra to a thrilling 88-81 overtime victory at home. Jenkins made 11 of 18 field goal attempts (including 2 of 4 from three-point range) and 11 of 13 foul shots, while dishing out 8 assists, committing just 2 turnovers, grabbing 4 rebounds, and getting a game-high 5 steals. Jenkins scored 6 points during a decisive 8-0 Hofstra run to end the game. The run started with a tough driving shot off the glass that put the Pride ahead to stay, 82-81, with 1:31 left in the game, and was capped with four Jenkins free throws in the final minute.

It was the third CAA Player Of The Week award of the season for the star guard who won four CAA Rookie Of The Week awards en route to being named the CAA Rookie Of The Year a season ago.
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Game 30: Selfless Jenkins Celebrates 20th Birthday in Grand Style
by jjwagner
Feb 28, 2009 | 8430 views | 0 0 comments | 132 132 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
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SAT 02/28/09

HOFSTRA 88, NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 81 (OT)

HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 20-10, 11-7 CAA

PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: 5th

JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 19.2 pts, 4.8 reb, 4.2 ast, 3.4 to

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They grow up so fast. In Charles Jenkins’ case, his game has matured just as quickly.

Jenkins turned 20 on Saturday, and he did so doing what he loves best. Playing basketball, and playing it extremely well.

The final day of the 2008-09 CAA men’s basketball regular season was quite eventful one for Saturday’s birthday boy who leads the Hofstra Pride. A few things could have worked out better, but overall, it would have been difficult for Jenkins to write a better script for himself. But then, as you’re about to read, for all his talent and personal success, that’s not the humble, team-first manner in which Jenkins operates.

On the minus side (it’s always best to end on a high note and save the good news for last)…

1) Hofstra blew all of a second-half 14-point lead against the CAA’s last place North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks (7-24, 3-15 CAA).

2) For the second straight game to close the regular season, the Pride’s normally solid defense was torched for a lot of points on a higher-than-usual field goal percentage, especially late.

3) By the narrowest of margins, Hofstra missed out on the all-important bye for the CAA tournament by a single three-point field goal made by Old Dominion in its overtime win at Northeastern. The race for the 4 seed in the CAA was an exciting one. Hofstra’s win, coupled with Drexel’s one-point loss at William & Mary later that evening would have allowed the Pride to back in for the four seed and a first-round bye in the CAA Tournament. Given the history of the CAA tournament, that’s huge, as no team playing in the opening round has ever won the tournament, and only two of those teams have ever made the finals (though, both were recent, with fifth-seeded William & Mary making it last year and sixth-seeded George Mason playing in the CAA finals in 2007). After Hofstra gutted out its 88-81 overtime win at home against UNCW on Saturday, Drexel’s 58-57 loss would have given Hofstra the four seed and the CAA’s final first-round bye had ODU’s three-pointer with :12 left in regulation at Northeastern less than two hours later, missed. But, it went in, tying that game, 50-50, and ODU went on to win 57-54, in overtime, to grab the four seed. As a result, fifth-seeded Hofstra plays the same Seahawks, the last seed in the twelve-team CAA, in the Pride’s next game, in the opening round of the 2009 CAA tournament (Friday, March 6th, at 2:30pm EST, at The Richmond Coliseum, in Richmond, Virginia). ODU awaits the winners in the quarterfinals, at 2:30pm EST, the following day, in the same side of the bracket which contains top-seeded, three-time defending CAA regular season champion Virginia Commonwealth (21-9, 14-4 CAA).

Now, the good news, and there was a lot of it, particularly for Jenkins, though unless asked, he’d be the last to make it a point to tell you about it. So, I will, for him, because what he accomplished before a loud crowd of 3,600 fans at The Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead on Saturday was a pretty impressive way to end his sophomore regular season and begin his post-teenage years.

One could tell early on that Jenkins was going to have a big day. He scored a career-high 33 points in Hofstra’s only other meeting against UNCW, an 80-78 Hofstra win on the Seahawks’ floor on January 28th.

On Saturday, Jenkins seemed to have an extra bounce in his step, slapping his teammates five and singing along to the music played on the public address system as Hofstra’s student section, The Lion’s Den, serenaded Jenkins with the “Happy Birthday” song during Hofstra’s layup drills about 25 minutes before the Prides’ six seniors (forwards Mike Davis-Saab, Dane Johnson, Zygis Sestokas, Arminas Urbutis, and guards Greg Johnson) were honored on Senior Day.

Jenkins has said all season how close he is to his teammates, particularly the seniors, and much sending his senior teammates out with as much success as possible, has been a driving force for his own play, and in wanting to help Hofstra win this season. And, it showed from the opening tip, when Jenkins went crashing into the Hofstra bench trying to save a loose ball from going out of bounds just :03 into the game. Thirteen seconds later, after a Jenkins steal, he quickly pushed the ball upcourt, finding an open Sestokas on the left wing, with some good court vision and a nice pass. Sestokas nailed a three-pointer :19 into the game, to give Hofstra a 3-0 lead. As soon as the ball passed through the net, Jenkins, happy for his senior teammate and for his team, yelled with his mouth wide open, as he turned and threw his fist in the air in jubilation.

That play set the tone for Jenkins. On a day when Jenkins would celebrate his birthday with a hot-shooting (11-18 fg, 2-4 3fg, 11-13 ft), career-high 35 points, while becoming the fastest player in Hofstra history to reach 1,000 career points, Hofstra’s sophomore captain handed out 8 assists and committed just 2 turnovers. In contrast, the rest of Jenkins’ teammates had a combined 8 assists and 9 turnovers.

Despite being only the second sophomore in Hofstra history to reach 1,000 points (the Pride’s all-time leading scorer, Antoine Agudio, is the other), winning on Senior Day for his teammates is what mattered most to a selfless Jenkins. “The only thing I was concerned about was getting the victory in our home court for our seniors,” Jenkins said. “As far as the accomplishment, it’s an honor because it’s a program [which has produced some] great guards, but for the most part, I’m here for my team. I could leave the accolades.”

A Jenkins layup with 8:36 left in the first half gave him a game-high 7 points and put Hofstra up 27-14, but some lax defense allowed a 12-2 UNCW run over the next 3:12, to trim the Pride’s lead to just 29-26, with 5:24 left in the first half. Hofstra got the lead back up to 7 on three different occasions thereafter, before settling for a 38-33 halftime lead, with Jenkins being the game’s only player in double figures in scoring, with 11 points (5-7fg, 1-1 3fg), 4 assists, and no turnovers.

Jenkins helped get Hofstra going again in the second half with a nice shake-and-bake move driving left, reversing and spinning into the lane, drawing a foul, and making both free throw s to put the Pride ahead, 45-39, with 15:14 left in the second half. “I’m like a fullback,” the strong 6-foot-3, 220-pound guard said, about his ability to repeatedly absorb hard fouls in the lane such as on that play.

Jenkins then helped Vines (the only other Hofstra player in double figures in scoring, with 17 points in 24 minutes off the bench) heat up. Jenkins assisted on two Vines’ three-pointers, sandwiched around a tough Jenkins drive (for his 20th point of the game and 996th in his career), to help Hofstra to the biggest lead of the game, 53-39, with 12:33 left in regulation.

(Now the bad news again, for a brief moment, before more good news later)…

That’s when Hofstra again became negligent on the defensive end, allowing UNCW to go on a 16-6 run to cut the Pride’s lead to just 59-55, with 7:41 left. Jenkins made a pair of free throws during that stretch for his 22nd point (998th of his career) putting Hofstra up 55-46, with 11:11 to go in the second half.

Jenkins then assisted on a Sestokas three-pointer to give the Pride some temporary breathing room, 62-55, with 7:14 remaining, and the milestone came on Hofstra’s next possession.

Up 62-57, Jenkins made a great move, driving from the top of the key, spinning to his right, into the lane, sending a high-arcing leaner to the rim. The ball bounced twice, before the shooter’s touch dropped it through the net for Jenkins’ 24th point of the game, the 1,000th of his career, giving Hofstra a 64-57 lead with 6:18 left in the regulation. After the next whistle, Jenkins received a standing ovation as his career accomplishment was announced, but Jenkins remained focused on winning.

A three-pointer by Vines (assisted by Sestokas) got the lead back up to 67-57 with 5:46 to go, but UNCE closed to within 73-70 with 2:42 left. Jenkins then twice (on a pair of free throws, and later, on a layup) got the lead back up to five points, the latter of which, drew “Charles Jenkins” chants as it made the score 77-72, with 1:43 remaining, but the scrappy Seahawks still wouldn’t go away. A jumper by UNCW forward Dominique Lacy made it 77-74 with 1:23 left, and Vines missed a three-pointer at the other end. On the next possession, Townes mad ea nice block inside, but the ball went unluckily, right to UNCW guard Johnny Wolf, who drilled a game-tying three-pointer with :19.4 remaining.

Hofstra had a chance to win the game in regulation as Jenkins appeared to draw a foul with less than :02 left, but as has often been the case this season, the Pride curiously failed to get the friendly whistle at home. “I thought [Jenkins] got hit on the elbow, Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora said. “He’s not gonna shoot the ball four feet from eight feet [away].”

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), Pecora wasn’t too pleased with his team’s lacking focus and a killer instinct down the stretch.

“They get too nice,” Pecora said. “They’re wonderful guys, they’re really good guys. They’re fun to be around, they’re just too nice, and that [could] come back and bite [them] in the tail.”

Pecora added, “I thought that there was about an eight-minute stretch where every trip down they went to the foul line or they got an offensive rebound, and they out-toughed us. I was screaming at our forwards and running guys in an out, and just begging somebody to play hard enough for us to find a way to win the game, so I’m not happy about that.”

When Pecora first entered the postgame press conference room, he spotted Nick Bond, the Hofstra Chronicle writer, who covered his last Pride basketball game (at least as a Hofstra student). Bond has taken some from the Lion’s Den, a little overboard at times. A few weeks ago, Bond felt the Hofstra student section was missing some energy and some creativity with its cheering, and he made that known in the school newspaper. As expected, the Lion’s Den responded, yelling at and criticizing Bond at each Hofstra home game since. I sat next to Bond the first two games since the now famed article, and he’s been a very good sport about it, even as jeers and personal insults (that’s where it’s probably gone too far at times) have rained down on Bond. Though the Lion’s Den should have probably let it go by Saturday’s game, Bond’s efforts have seemingly worked, as whether by coincidence or not, the student section had become a factor in the Pride’s home games down the stretch (which is what Bond told me he was shooting for all along). Pecora sat down at the conference and said, “Nick! What’s up?! You got that student section going, kid!” When Bond responded that he was sad it was his last game, Pecora joked, “You know what? I though it might be my last game too, a couple times in that second half. When I yelled, I thought my heart was gonna come out of my mouth.”

Pecora wasn’t feeling good about his team’s chances after UNCW forced overtime, saying “Usually when you go into a game at home in overtime, you feel confident about it. I didn’t feel confident at all about it. I thought we let them back in the game.”

But, a coach will always feel that way. A player won’t, as Jenkins said in contrast, “I can’t… not be confident. If that’s the case, then I shouldn’t play basketball.”

Jenkins played that way down the stretch. He gave Hofstra the lead for good, 82-81, with 1:31 left in the game, making a strong driving shot off glass from the right blocks. Jenkins then sank a couple of free throws with :57.9 to go, for an 84-81 Hofstra lead, after another nice spinning drive to draw a foul. After UNCW missed a three-pointer, Vines grabbed the rebound and alertly outletted to sophomore forward Greg Washington who slammed home a dunk with :32.7 remaining, putting the Pride up 86-81, and sending the crowd into a frenzy, the loudest I heard it all season. Jenkins then sealed the win with a couple more free throws, for the final 88-81 margin, letting Pecora and his team breathe a sigh of relief.

Some may say with no bye, the win wasn’t all that important, that the 5 seed isn’t much of a difference than the 6 seed if you have to play the extra day either way. But, if you’re Hofstra, I think it’s key. Although VCU beat the Pride twice this year (each by only single digits), Hofstra was competitive in each game, and I believe the Pride match up a lot better with VCU than with second-seeded George Mason (20-9, 13-5), which handed Hofstra its worst CAA loss of the season (78-54, on February 3rd) in their only meeting. Had the Pride dropped this game, not only would it be going into the tournament on a very bad note with two awful losses, but as a 6 seed, it would likely have faced Mason in the semifinals if it made a run. As a 5 seed, if it can make a run, Hofstra avoids Mason until the finals.

Regardless of all of that stuff however, the key for Hofstra to make history and become the first opening round team to win the CAA tourney, is to get some of the core surrounding Jenkins to play at the level it was playing earlier in the season, even as well as it played within the past couple of weeks.

As Pecora noted, “We haves some guys right now who are not playing to their potential. They’ve kind of dipped back down to where they were early in the year. I wish I was the kind of coach, and I have friends who are like this and I envy them, that they could say, ‘Hey man, we just found a way to win and we won our 20th.’ But, I’m not, so I’m gonna look at this and say we’re not playing our ‘A’ game, we’re going into a tournament and I don’t feel good about the way we’re defending, I don’t feel good about the way we’re running offense… and there were a lot of things that I wasn’t very proud of for us as a team, because we gotta get a little bit better every day, and I think we’ve slipped a little bit.”

Pecora is certainly happy to rebound from last season’s 12-18 nightmare, the only season in the past five in which Hofstra failed to win 20 games, but he expects his team to be able to make some noise in Richmond. “For a team to go from 12 wins to 20 wins speaks in volumes for their character and how hard they worked in the offseason, but I want more,” he said.

“I think it’s going to be as wide open a tournament as we’ve ever had. We probably have as much depth as anybody, but we just gotta get everybody on the same page for a few days,” Pecora added.

Jenkins, last year’s CAA Rookie Of The Year, is also in search of more for his team, saying “I would trade my rookie of the year for a couple more games last year. There’s six teams [legitimately in contention for this year’s CAA championship], and I feel that this is a chance for us to do something special for the program as well as for each other.”

And, Jenkins is well aware that a window that’s open today may not remain open for long. “I feel that this is our best shot to do something very special because after this year all our bigs are gone and next year it’s like we’re starting off new as far as our front court is concerned. Tournament time is when everything just goes out the window and intensity just rises.”

Sometimes, I wonder just how much some reporters really know, or how much research they do. One reporter (who I won’t identify) asked Sestokas if this year’s team is the best team that Sestokas has been a part of heading down to Richmond for the CAA Tournament since he’s been at Hofstra. Pecora was quick to remind the reporter (who, keep in mind, is a vet who should have known better, not a young kid), that Sestokas had been a part of a couple of other good teams (the teams during Sestokas’ freshman and sophomore years each finished 14-4, in third place, three games better than this year’s Hofstra team which went 11-7 in the conference; those teams won 26 and 22 games, respectively).

Nevertheless, the inquiry prompted a good response from Sestokas, who simply smiled and said, “I think we’ll find out after the season.”

And, Pecora’s response? “That’s a good answer.”

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Notes:

Hofstra Great Rich Laurel wasn't in the house (he's coahing in Belgium these days), but his number 21 was retired at halftime. Laurel led Hofstra to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearances in 1976 and 1977.

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Included in the pre-game ceremony honoring Hofstra's six seniors was a nice video tribute. Thinking of that and of Laurel's number being retired, I had to think... some of the seniors honored on Saturday weren't the most accomplished in Hofsrta's program yet they (deservedly so) had a video tribute, yet no video tribute when one of Hofstra's best players ever, Speedy Claxton, had his number retired earlier this year. Claxton even commented that day that he was sort of expecting to be honored on the main scoreboard. Did they not record video highlights back when he played?

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Hofstra is 13-2 in games decided by 5 points or less, making the Pride lead the nation in "close wins."

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7 of Hofstra's 11 CAA wins this season have been by single-digit margins; of those, 5 have been by 5 points or less; of those, 2 have been by 3 points and 2 others have been by 2 points.
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Game 29: Hofstra Routed, Misses Big Opportunity
by jjwagner
Feb 25, 2009 | 8109 views | 0 0 comments | 116 116 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
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WED 02/25/09

GEORGIA STATE 76, HOFSTRA 55

HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 19-10, 10-6 CAA

PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: tied for 5th

JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 18.6 pts, 4.8 reb, 4.1 ast, 3.4 to

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For many less-than-hardcore college basketball fans who believe the regular season is meaningless, the season will begin next week, as the calendar turns to March.



But, those who follow college hoops more closely, particularly at the mid-major level, know that NCAA tournament bids can often be won or lost throughout the entire regular season.

When you play in a traditionally one-bid, mid-major conference like the CAA, you’re chances for an at-large bid to March’s Big Dance can often hinge on your out-of-conference results in November and December.

If you don’t do enough in those games (or if you win, but don’t schedule tough enough), every game in conference play is of utmost importance, as a single loss at any time within your own league can doom your conference tournament seeding and your one chance at getting to NCAA tourney via an automatic bid.

And, if you’re the 2008-09 Hofstra Pride, and you know you’re only road to the NCAA Tournament runs through Richmond and winning the CAA Tournament, you have to make sure you take care of business and take advantage of every late-season opportunity that you can get.

History shows that in CAA tournament play, a team seeded lower that fourth, which has to play on the tournament’s initial day, can get to a CAA Final. Fifth-seeded Wiliam & Mary made a surprise run to the finals just last year. However, history also shows that unless you receive a first-round bye as a top for seed, simply getting to the CAA finals, and winning it, are two different things (only top-four seeds have ever won the CAA tournament in its two-plus decades).

That’s what made Hofstra’s game at Georgia State (11-18, 8-9 CAA) on Wednesday night so crucial as the Pride (19-10, 10-7 CAA) battled three other teams (Old Dominion, 19-9, 11-6 CAA; Drexel, 15-12, 10-7 CAA; and James Madison, 18-12, 9-8 CAA) for the fourth and final first-round bye in the CAA tourney.

And, what an inconvenient time to lay an egg, especially with Drexel losing at home to third-place Northeastern (18-10, 12-5 CAA) the same night.

Hofstra, which had been playing so well in its push for that four seed (holding teams to under 40 percent shooting from the floor; gelling and getting several guys into the mix and playing well; and winning 8 of 10 in the CAA, 9 of 11 overall, after a 2-4 start in the conference) suddenly forgot how to play perimeter defense, and returned to its earlier-season issues of leaving Charles Jenkins to go it virtually alone.

Against a team that was dangerous going in, but that Hofstra certainly could have beaten with a much better effort, the Pride fell behind early, 18-4, and never really recovered despite a Jenkins-infused run which provided some hope early in the second half.

The Pride had been a prefect 12-0 when shooting 40 percent or better from the field, but lost for the first time despite shooting over that mark in each half, finishing the game shooting 44 percent (20-46) from the floor.

That’s because The Pride allowed the Panthers to make shots from virtually around the entire state of Georgia. The Panthers shot 62 percent (16-26) from the field, including 64 percent (7-11) in the first half. Most of the damage was done by two players: Leonard Mendez (game-high 27 points on 9-14 shooting from the field), scored 18 points, going 6 of 9 from the floor, while making 3 of 5 three-pointers in the first half; Trae Goldston (15 points, 5-9 fg, 4-6 3-point fg) meanwhile, scored 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the floor, including 4 of 5 makes from downtown in the opening half.

Hofstra in the first half, aside from Jenkins, made half its shots (8-16) from the floor, but only one of those players attempted more than 3 shots (Greg Washington, 2-4 fg), while Jenkins struggled to a 2-for-7 first half, despite making 5 0f 6 at the free throw line to lead the Pride with 9 points at the break.

After the poor start, Hofstra got to within 32-23 on a 19-14 run, but the Panthers responded with a 14-2 run to take it’s biggest lead of the half, at 46-25, before leading 46-27 at halftime.

Jenkins did all he could early in second half to help his team mount a comeback. He made 5 of his first 6 shots from the field after the half, and just 4:48 into the second half, the Pride were back in the game, trimming a 21-point deficit to just eight (47-39).

But, leading 52-43, Georgia State put the game away with a 13-0 run that upped the lead back to 22 (65-43) with 7:54 left in the game.

Jenkins finished the game just above his 18.6 ppg average, scoring a team-high 19 points, finishing with a pretty good shooting percentage, making 7 of 15 shots form the floor.

Granted, a small excuse could be made with a key piece of late, in 6-7 JUCO forward Darren Townes, missing the game with the flu, and Mike Szabo being worked back into the picture with 10 rusty minutes after missing 10 games with a broken arm. But, so much a part of Hofstra’s resurgence which put them in position to get that CAA tourney bye was not only Jenkins getting near 20 points or more, but getting good look for a lot of his teammates. After Jenkins, two other players took just 6 shots (Greg Washington 4-6 and Nathaniel Lester 0-6), one player took 5 shots (Cornielius Vines, 1-5), and everyone else ranged between no shots and four attempts.



Although better in the second half, the defense was also un-Hofstra-like overall (allowing 53 percent field goal shooting for the game) for a team which has allowed its opponents to shoot just 39.6 percent from the floor this season.

With Drexel losing and opening the door in CAA the regular season’s final week, it wasn’t exactly a good time for Hofstra to completely abandon the style of basketball at both ends of the floor, which brought it success and made it the hottest team in the conference over the past several weeks.

Heading into it’s final regular season game at home against last-place North Carolina-Wilmington (7-23, 3-14 CAA) on Saturday, a win at Georgia State would have given Hofstra control of its own destiny for the four seed and the first-round bye (by virtue of Hofstra’s victory over Old Dominion in the lone regular season meeting between the two on February 10th).

Conversely, letting that opportunity slip by, Hofstra now needs help.

Looking at it completely optimistically, one could say the loss at Georgia State might be the best thing for Hofstra in the grand scheme of things.

How is that possible, you say?

Two Big Reasons:

1) The Pride obviously had weaknesses to work on which were exposed on Wednesday night, which might not have been, and which might have not have been addressed in time for the CAA tourney had Hofstra continued to roll as it had been with five straight wins before the Pride’s trip to Georgia… Suppose for instance, Hofstra had won in Atlanta on Wednesday, then wins its final game of the regular season, and locked up the four seed and was feeling pretty good about itself riding into the CAA tourney on a 7-game win streak while sitting out next Friday with a first-round bye. And, then, imagine Hofstra, perhaps not completely focused, getting picked off by the 5 seed in an even matchup the following day, going home one-and-done like last year… But, having lost by 21 to eighth-seeded Georgia State, do you think Head Coach Tom Pecora and his staff now have the undivided attention of his team which includes a talented but still maturing core of sophomores? I would count on it.

2) The CAA tournament in Richmond, Virginia has been dominated by top southern-based teams over the more recently-joining northern based teams like Hofstra over the years. The Richmond Coliseum is designed to be a neutral site, but any time a northern CAA team plays a southern CAA team in a big CAA tourney game, it’s a virtual road game for the Northerners. Despite some first-round rest, a fourth-place finish for Hofstra could mean a quarterfinal game against a fifth-seeded, Virginia-based Old Dominion. A sixth-place finish would mean an extra game, but against an 11 seed which Hofstra should beat (and frankly, if it didn’t the Pride would deserve to go home anyway). And, a 6 seed might mean a quarterfinal game against a third-seeded, Massachusetts-based Northeastern. Hofstra is capable of beating both ODU and NU, and has this season. So, why not opt for the true neutral game over the pseudo road game, regardless of the seeding?

There’s also first time for everything, and with a CAA season appearing as wide open as it has ever been in recent years, this might be the season that a seed lower than a four finally breaks through for a CAA Tournament title.

Still, the goal is to secure the highest seed possible, so here’s what to keep an eye on for the CAA’s final day of the regular season, should Hofstra take care of business against the Seahawks after a pre-game ceremony to retire the number the number 21 (the same number worn by Townes, the last to wear that number at Hofstra) of former Hofstra great Richie Laurel, who led Hofstra to its first-ever NCAA tournament berths in 1976 and 1977:

To earn (or back into) a bye, Hofstra needs to win and see both Old Dominion and Drexel lose on Saturday, which isn’t that unlikely, considering ODU will be an underdog, and just about any game on the road (where both ODU and Drexel will be) is a tough one in the CAA.

Here are the other remaining possibilities for HU:

If Hofstra loses…

The Pride are locked into the 6 seed.

If Hofstra wins…

The Pride get the 5 seed with either an ODU or a Drexel loss.

The Pride get the 6 seed if both ODU and Drexel win.

Hofstra does have timing in its favor on Saturday. With a win, the Pride can put a lot of pressure on both the Monarchs and Dragons. Hofstra plays at 4pm on Saturday, and will finish by around 6pm, just in time for the start ODU’s game at Northeastern at 6pm, one hour before Drexel tips off at William & Mary at 7pm.



But, first thing’s first. Forget the seeding at 4pm. Hofstra just needs to beat UNCW on Saturday, play well, and return to form. Otherwise, even with a bye, the chances of an early CAA tourney exit are good.
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Jenkins Earns 2 Player Of The Week Honors
by jjwagner
Feb 25, 2009 | 8204 views | 0 0 comments | 126 126 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
It's been well-known all season among Hofstra Basketball followers that Charles Jenkins is the go-to guy for the 2008-09 Hofstra Pride.

But, Jenkins is again being recognized in the New York area, within his conference, and now, nationally.

Despite a rough shooting performance in a Bracket Buster game on Saturday, Jenkins posted some impressive overall numbers in helping Hofstra to a 2-0 record last week, which earned the Pride's sophomore captain the CAA Player Of The Week award on Monday, February 23rd, and a day later, the Met Player Of The Week award on Tuesday, February 24th.

For the week, Jenkins averaged 22.5 points, 11.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.5 steals per game.

Counting all of Jenkins’ field goals and assists last week, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound guard had a hand in 37 of Hofstra’s 53 field goals (the Pride made 35 shots against James Madison and sank 18 at Fairfield)..

In a 99-96 double overtime home win over James Madison on February 18th, Jenkins scored 32 points (a point shy of the career-best 33 he scored at North Carolina-Wilmington on January 28th), making 11 of 16 shots from the floor and 10 of 12 free throws, while handing out a career-high 13 assists, getting 4 steals, and committing just 4 turnovers.

Jenkins followed that game up, going just 4-for-17 from the field in Hofstra's 61-56 win at Fairfield on February 21st, but he was a prefect 4-of-4 at the free throw line, while adding 3 steals and a game-high 9 assists. After struggling with 3 assists and 4 turnovers in the first half, Jenkins rebounded (literally, with 3 rebounds for the game), and figuratively... in the second-half, Jenkins had just 1 turnover and 6 assists, including assists on all 3 of guard Corenelius Vines' 3 three-pointers (in the final 8:28) which were huge difference makers in helping Hofstra to rally to victory after trailing by 6 points late in the game.

The CAA Player Of The Week award recognizes the Colonial Athletic Association’s best player in a given week, while the Presto Sports/Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association (MBWA) Player of the Week award is based on a vote of New York metropolitan area media.

Jenkins won each award for the second time this season, having won the CAA Player Of The Week award on November 17th, while receiving the Met Player Of The Week award on December 8th.

For the season, Jenkins is averaging 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.

In the CAA, Jenkins ranks second in scoring, seventh in assists, tenth in steals, and 19th in rebounding.

Nationally, Jenkins is one of just ten players in the country at the Division I Men’s level averaging at least 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.

With 957 career points over his first 57 games, Jenkins is on pace to break the Hofstra all-time scoring mark (set last year, by Antoine Agudio) and to become only the second sophomore in Hofstra history to score 1,000 points (Agudio was the first).

The head coach of Hofstra’s next opponent, Rod Barnes, who coaches Georgia State, praises Jenkins, saying “He’s a star in our league. Night in and night out, he does what needs to be done to help his team win. He can get to the basket or make jumps shots.”
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Game 28: Vines Bails Out Jenkins, Hofstra
by jjwagner
Feb 21, 2009 | 8664 views | 0 0 comments | 134 134 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
—————————————————————

SAT 02/21/09

HOFSTRA 61, FAIRFIELD 56

HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 19-9, 10-6 CAA

PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: tied for 4th

JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 18.6 pts, 4.9 reb, 4.1 ast, 3.4 to

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The annual ESPN Bracket Buster, as originally established, was a great idea. For one weekend down the stretch of the college basketball regular season, it moved the national spotlight, cast primarily on the big conferences (like the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-10) all season, to instead shine on mid-major conference teams that often don’t get noticed on such a level until they later upset some of the big conference schools in the NCAA Tournament.

With only 18 teams participating, the Bracket Buster was perfect when introduced in 2003. However, the instant success of the Bracket Buster is paradoxically what has also taken away from the event. The pool swelled to 46 teams in 2004, to 64 teams in 2005, to a ridiculous 100 teams in 2006, and (for added silliness) to 102 teams this year.

Hofstra and Fairfield were two of those teams on Saturday. Like most of this year’s Bracket Buster participants, the Pride’s trip to Bridgeport, CT to play the Stags (15-12, 8-8 MAAC) mostly represented a temporary inconvenient break in conference play for a Hofstra team which has its sights set elsewhere.

The original idea of the Bracket Buster for a team like Hofstra was that beating a top non-conference team late in the regular season might help sway the NCAA Tournament selection committee enough to choose a team like the Pride from a mid-major conference like the CAA over a middle-of-the-pack Big East team like Cincinnati (17-10, 7-7 in the much tougher Big East this year).

That’s great, IF you’re a TOP mid-major, maybe…one of the top 18, as in 2003?

Of the 9 Bracket Buster winners (if things were still done as they were six years ago), maybe as many as 4 or 5 teams would earn an at-large bid with a Bracket Buster win putting them over the top if they would fail to win their mid-major conference tournaments.

But, with 51teams now winning Bracket Busters and only 34 at-large spots to fill, with historically a mid-single digit number of at-larges going to mid-majors, there’s no point for most mid-major teams taking part (other than the point with anything that doesn’t seem to make sense on the surface…money, of course, as in the extra money ESPN and its television affiliates make from growing the Bracket Buster to absurdity).

As Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora said after his Pride rallied to beat Fairfield, 61-56, on Saturday, “Well, that’s a Bracket Buster. I don’t know what bracket we’re busting…”

Pecora knows Hofstra’s victory over Fairfield didn’t even secure an NIT bid let alone have any effect whatsoever on being invited to the NCAA tournament should Hofstra fail to win the CAA Tournament next month to get qualify for the Big Dance via an automatic bid.

When asked if beating the Stags helped in earning an NIT bid, Pecora quickly dismissed the idea, saying “No, we’re trying to get to the NCAA.” Pecora now hopes, with a first-round bye at stake with just two regular season games (both in the CAA) remaining, is that playing in a virtually meaningless Bracket Buster doesn’t slow his team’s momentum after a five-game conference winning streak which helped Hofstra go from merely a mediocre 6-6 in the CAA to a very solid 10-6, surging from the depths of a 2-4 start in the CAA.

I say “virtually” meaningless when describing Hofstra’s win because there still WAS some usefulness in the Pride’s victory.

Selfishly, I enjoyed the trip, using the 7pm game at The Arena At Harbor Yard in Bridgeport to make a day of it, catching the Harlem Globetrotters for the first time in many years. They played at 1pm and were actually a lot more amusing (with some funny and cool new stuff added to the old favorites), than I expected. And, I recommend the nearby Barnum Museum (commemorating the life of P.T. Barnum) and Black Rock Oyster Bar & Grill (in Fairfield). But, you probably don’t care about that stuff, so back to the Pride...

There were five positives that came from Hofstra’s visit to the Constitution State, the last four of which could help the Pride in achieving the their goal of making the NCAA tournament in a way that its Bracket Buster win over Fairfield couldn’t:

1) Pecora feels a certain obligation to have Hofstra carry the mantle of keeping New York City area basketball strong...

That’s why he often recruits and schedules locally. “It was a pleasure to be able to play an hour from home, and it’s a great series,” he said” We’re excited about having Fairfield back at our place next year. We already play Iona and Manhattan every year, we play Fordham, St. Francis, hopefully, we’ll be back to playing St. John’s next year. So, there’s a lot of local, New York [City area] teams that we want to play, and Fairfield is one of them.” Hofstra and Fairfield tried to schedule each other this year but it didn’t work out with the dates because of each team playing early-season tournaments, with the Pride in Charleston and the Stags in Puerto Rico, but the Bracket Buster took care of that.

Now, to the more important three items, in terms of what’s left for this season…

2) The NFL isn’t the only league in which coaches copy what other teams do…

“They run great stuff,” Pecora said of the Stags. “I said to my guys, they ran a great zone cut against us, we gotta run that cut. So, I’ll go back and look at the tape and steal that. That’s what we do as coaches.”

3) When Jenkins struggles with his shot, he is a complete enough basketball player to do other things to help his team win…

At the postgame press conference, Pecora said, “I'm all alone up here, I'm not accustomed to being up here without Jenkins.” That’s how often Jenkins is a main part of any time Hofstra plays well and wins. Although, not that Jenkins needs it, because he usually says all of the right things and leads well by example (as Hofstra’s captain despite being the youngest player on the team), Pecora joked of Jenkins’ absence at the postgame conference table, “It’ll do some good, it'll keep him humble.” A couple of different factors led to Jenkins’ struggles on Saturday: one was the absence of point guard Greg Johnson, who despite a lot of limitations, makes Hofstra’s offense flow better when he’s on the floor. Johnson, who was out with a sore shoulder, meant that Jenkins had to assume point guard responsibilities instead of being able to focus on his scoring, slashing self. Throw in Jenkins having to expend a lot of energy on defense in a Queens-Brooklyn showdown, trying to stop former Bishop Loughlin High school star, 5-9 guard Herbie Allen, and it became a rough shooting night for Hofstra’s leading scorer. Jenkins ended up with a team-high tying 13 points, but that output came on just 4 of 17 shooting from the floor, about equally as poor in each half (from the field, Jenkins shot 2-for-8 In the first half and made just 2 of 9 in the second half). He also had trouble stopping Allen. Pecora said of Fairfield, “They shoot the ball very well, they were very well-prepared for everything that we do.” Allen was one of those players who shot well for the Stags, scoring all 9 of his first-half points in the first 5:55 of the game, burning Jenkins for 3 three-pointers to help Fairfield to a 13-3 lead… But, forward Zygis Sestokas, who has averaged 12.3 ppg over the past 4 games, on the strength 60 percent (15-for-25) shooting from three-point range over that span, went a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc to lead the Pride with 9 points in the opening half, as rallied to led 27-23 at the break. “Zyggy Sestokas again, by shooting 4-of-6 from three,” Pecora said, “Really created some space on the floor, and Charles Jenkins didn't have one of his best nights, but just about every other night this year, [he has], so he's allowed to have a night off on occasion, I guess.” Despite being off target, Jenkins’ two makes in the first half also helped bring Hofstra back, as he worked with forward Darren Townes. With the Pride down 21-14, Jenkins very patiently waited and communicated with just a nod and a look for Townes to set a high screen at the top of the key. That freed Jenkins up enough to make his first shot with a toe on the three-point line to cut the Pride’s deficit to 21-16 with 5:55 to go in the half. It worked once, so why not try it again? On the next possession, same exact thing. The nod and look, the step out by Townes, opening up Jenkins to hit a top-of-the-key three to bring Hofstra to within 21-19 with 5:15 left in the half. The duo tried it a third time on the next possession. Same spot, again a good look, but that time, Jenkins missed a little long. But, that was enough to get his team going and help Hofstra rally to its halftime lead. And, in the second half, Jenkins found other ways to lead without his shots falling, handing out 6 assists while limiting mistakes. “We had a lot of turnovers in the first half,” Pecora said (well, it just seemed worse; Hofstra actually had just one more in the first half, committing 9 of it’s 17 for the game in the opening 20 minutes). But, he was right about Jenkins taking better care of the ball in the second half and finding Sestokas throughout the game, saying “In the second half, Charles only had one [turnover]. He had four at the half, and he had nine assists again. With Zyggy on the floor, all of a sudden Charles’ assist numbers are going up because there’s somebody out there who’s making some shots.”

4) Hofstra is remains resilient and continues to win close games…

Pecora noted of his team, “We’ve had great success late in games, in close games this year.” The win pushed Hofstra’s record to 12-2 this season in games decided by five points or less. A big reason for that is the Pride’s resiliency. Three big runs against Fairfield decided the game… Jenkins’ aforementioned jumper which put Hofstra ahead capped an 11-0 run. Later, down 33-29, in the second half, the Pride responded with a 9-0 run to lead 38-33, after Jenkins made two free throws which were awarded after Allen threw the ball away in protest to a call (it was funny in a way; the ref T’d Allen up late, only after Allen had a look as if he knew what he did and didn’t really mean it, but it was too late to take it back). Then, down 51-45 with 4:19 left in the game, Hofstra again rallied with a 10-0 run to lead 55-51, with :37.4 remaining.

5) The Pride saw the latest example that on the infrequent occasion when Charles Jenkins isn’t at his best either offensively or defensively, the Pride is deep enough to have guys come off the bench, and step right in to save the day…

Besides being the best rebounding team and one of the best defensive teams in the CAA, another key strength for Hofstra in the conference is its depth. If the Pride make a run to a CAA Tournament title, it could be its depth that carries it there. Jenkins more often than not be able to lead his team, which will win, with enough complimentary contributions. But, the one night, the one half, or even the one key stretch that Jenkins is keyed on and shut down by an opposing defense, will be the time when others really will have to step up. At times this season, Hofstra has seen that from a number of different players. What was refreshing about Saturday’s game is that the help came from Cornelius Vines, a former starter who through lack of production, had been relegated to the bench as bench players like swingman Nathaniel Lester and Sestokas took a lot of Vines minutes as they have stepped up their games in recent weeks. Yet, Vines showed a lot of character, stepping in after a long stretch of relative inactivity, on both ends of the floor, and really, being the main reason Hofstra was able to pull out its fifth straight win. “Making shots on this team is really doing a good job. As a team we shoot like 38 percent for the year. If you can make shot and you guard a little bit, I’ll put you on the floor,“ Pecora said. Vines certainly did both. With Allen beating Jenkins (who played all 40 minutes) for 12 points on four three’s, Pecora brought Vines in to check Allen with 8:28 left in the game. “We made that switch because Charles gets worn down, he’s chasing around Herbie, and we know Herbie from the city, he’s a Loughlin kid, he came to our teen camp, we’ve known him a long time. There’s a long history of every time we play against kids form New York that we didn’t take or didn’t come [to play at Hofstra] or whatever, they always play very well. I though {Vines] did a good job of containing [Allen] a little bit and making him work a little bit harder.” As much of a key factor Vines stopping Allen was, it was the clutch shooting of Vines late in the game which was most noticed as the difference maker in the game. Earlier, Hofstra was having trouble with Fairfield’s zone. Pecora thought the Pride beat the zone over the top, but realized that Hofstra simply wasn’t shooting the ball well enough to accomplish that. “We’re not that good a shooting team,” he said. “Even if you are a good shooting team, you have to attack it inside out.” Thus, in the first half, he went to 6-foot-10, 265-pound forward Dane Johnson, who I personally call the “Black Hole” because when the ball goes into him, it’s a very safe bet it’s NEVER coming back out again. Sure enough, he tried to force his way to the hoop, putting the ball on the floor first, and as he often does lately, turned it over or forced a bad shot. Pecora said, “Every gray hair I have on my head I can blame on Dane Johnson this year. I love him, but why would you bring the ball down when you’re that big?” Pecora admitted that Johnson’s mere presence was beneficial, however. “Getting the ball into Dane helped soften up the zone and helped create some gaps for us to drive the ball.” Even more effective with Vines in over the final 8½ minutes though, was attacking Fairfield’s zone 1-3-1 zone with diagonal passes, which led to Vines knocking down some big shots. Vines scored 13 points playing only 13 minutes, scoring all 13 in the final 8:18 of the game. Jenkins assisted on the first of Vines’ 3 three-pointers down the stretch, cutting the Fairfield lead to 45-44, but the Stags went up 51-45. Jenkins again found Vines though, and the JUCO junior guard knocked down another triple, to pull the Pride to within 51-48 with 4:05 remaining. Lester then made 3 of 4 free throws to tie the game, 51-51, with 2:32 left. Vines then hit one last three-pointer, spotting up on the left wing, once again assisted by Jenkins, giving Hofstra the lead for good, 54-41, with :56.4 left. Two free throws by Vines gave the Pride a 57-53 lead, but Fairfield got to within 57-56 on a three with :23.2 to go. Jenkins then sank two free throws to put Hofstra up 59-56, with :21.8 remaining. Allen then had a great chance to score but blew an easy layup attempt. He chased down the offensive rebound on the weak side, but Vines came up with a huge steal. He was fouled and made two more clutch free throws for the final margin of 61-56. Not it mattered anymore after that point, but fittingly, Vines forced Allen into one final miss from three-point range and then pulled down the final rebound of the game.

Also fitting is that Vines’ game-winning three-pointer made Hofstra exactly 40.0 percent (18-for-45) from the field. Why fitting? Because with that shot, and with the win, the Pride is now a perfect 12-0 when shooting at least 40 percent this season. When it shoots under 40 percent? A drastically different, mediocre 7-9.

With Vines now coming off the bench to contribute, Sestokas knocking down shots, and several others, including Lester, playing main roles to supplement Jenkins, Pecora has two regular season games left to not only have his team fight for seeding, but to continue to peak at just the right time heading into the CAA Tournament. One of the biggest keys on that front is getting Lester, who has emerged as the most consistent 2nd guy to Jenkins, to not only keep playing well, but to play smarter. With :36.7 left, and Hofstra up only 55-52, Lester committed an ill-advised over-the-back foul trying for an offensive rebound. As the players walked to the other end of the court for Fairfield to shoot free throws, Pecora immediately called Lester over to lecture him. In reference to his earlier comment about Dane Johnson, Pecora said of the talented but not-yet-refined Lester, “That’s where all the other gray hairs come from. He competes so hard but he’s got to understand time and score and those [types of] things. And, then he leaves a guy open for a three. So, he does good things at one end but then not so much at the other. That stuff is coaching. That’s a reflection of him not understanding some of the things that we do every day in practice and I’ve got to find a creative way to get him to understand that.”

Hofstra fans should have faith that Pecora will be able to do that if recent trends are any indication. During the Pride’s resurgence, Pecora has pushed most of the right buttons, like knowing when to send Dennison and Vines to the bench in favor of Lester and Sestokas; or when to re-establish Vines to have him pull out Saturday’s win; or when to attack with a press on UNCW’s Chad Tomko, resulting in a great defensive play and pass by Dennison for a game-winner on January 28th; or knowing when to use Townes and forward Arminas Urbutis at the right times to allow them to be more effective of late.

As a result, the Pride, at 9-2 in its past 11 games, are the hottest team in the closest race in Division I college basketball (the CAA is the only Division I conference with more than five teams within two games of first place). Hofstra will look to finish strong, with games at Georgia State (10-18, 7-9 CAA) on Wednesday, before returning home on Saturday, for Senior Day, against UNCW (7-22, 3-13 CAA). Win out, and a little help, and Hofstra might get a first-round bye. After Wednesday’s game, I’ll recap all possible CAA seeding scenarios that affect Hofstra heading into Saturday’s final day of the CAA regular season.

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Game 27: Jenkins 32, 7, & 13 In Hofstra's 2OT Win
by jjwagner
Feb 18, 2009 | 8373 views | 0 0 comments | 125 125 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
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WED 02/18/09

HOFSTRA 99, JAMES MADISON 96 (2OT)

HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 18-9, 10-6 CAA

PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: tied for 4th

JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 18.8 pts, 5.0 reb, 4.0 ast, 3.4 to

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Usually, a picture is worth a thousand words.

But, if you missed Hofstra’s wild 99-96 double overtime victory over CAA rival James Madison (17-11, 9-7 CAA) at The Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead on Wednesday night, the verbiage of Charles Jenkins and Pride Head Coach Tom Pecora put a big win into proper perspective, while painting a much bigger picture for their team’s season.

“Even though we won, that’s not how we play. We base our team on defense, rebounding, and running,” said Jenkins, while Pecora called the important conference triumph “fool’s gold.”

More than any time all season, Hofstra’s offense was clicking, led by Jenkins, who scored a game-high-tying 32 points, just a point short of the career-high 33 he posted at North Carolina-Wilmington on January 28th. Jenkins played perhaps the best game of his college career offensively, shooting a sizzling 11-for-16 from the floor, making 10 of 12 free throws, grabbing 7 rebounds, and handing out most of Hofstra’s 20 assists, tallying a career-high 13 (shattering the old mark of 9 assists set against Fordham on December 3rd), while committing just 4 turnovers.

With Jenkins guiding his team, the Pride shot 54 percent (35-for-65) from the field for the game, the first time it reached at least 50 percent all season, including a blistering 68 percent (21-for-31) after halftime.

And, of course, Hofstra won, rallying from a 24-17 first-half deficit. So, what was the problem?

Well, as Pecora and Jenkins pointed out, Hofstra was forced to beat JMU (and nearly didn’t) at the Dukes’ own game, rather than imposing its will and its own style on JMU.

“We played JMU Basketball instead of Hofstra Basketball. That’s exactly how they want to play. We want the game in the 60’s,” Pecora said.

Well, actually, the game WAS in the 60’s in regulation, and scoring-wise, it was almost a carbon copy of the first meeting between the two teams, a 69-68 Hofstra win, back on January 24th. Wednesday night’s game was very similarly tied at 67-67 going into overtime, and JMU led both games by the identical halftime score of 34-30.

However, Pecora’s message was accurate. Hofstra Basketball, as Jenkins intimated, has been predicated on (in addition to getting Jenkins to at least 20 points) playing solid team defense and rebounding. Yet, JMU shot a consistent 46 percent (at least 6-8 percent higher than Hofstra is used to allowing), going 11-24 from the floor in each of the first two halves, en route to finishing 51 percent (30-for-59) for the game.

Obviously, none of that pleased Pecora, who said “It was a gutty win [but] we played Hofstra Basketball for [only] about eight minutes in the second half and that’s what allowed us to catch up and then take the lead. But, I am not going to coach a team that runs up and down the floor and let’s the other team score. I’ll caddy and bartend before I do that.”

Understandable frustration, but with Hofstra at 18-9 and 10-6 in the CAA, and right in the mix for a crucial top seed and first-round CAA tournament bye, Pecora doesn’t appear to be carrying golf clubs are taking tips at your local pub any time soon.

Imagine what Pecora might have thought had his team lost.

Thankfully for the Pride, Jenkins received a lot of help to make sure that didn’t happen. While Jenkins scored a game-high 12 points in the first half, making 6 of 8 shots from the field, fellow sophomore swingman Nathaniel Lester (Canarsie High School) nearly had a double-double in the opening half, scoring 9 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor, while pulling down 8 boards to keep Hofstra within striking distance.

In the second half, while Jenkins scored a team-high 10 points and Lester added another 9 points, a pair of senior forwards, JUCO transfer Darren Townes (season-high 15 points, 6-7 fg) and Zygis Sestokas (career-high 19 points, 7-11 fg, 5-8 three-point fg) each scored 8 points in the second half to pace Hofstra to the biggest lead of the game, 53-45, with 7:49 left in the second half, outscoring JMU 23-11 after halftime to that point.

That’s when Hofstra became especially lax on the defensive end of the floor, allowing 51 points over the final 17:49 of the game (including two overtime periods).

“Our goal was to lock them up and we didn’t do it,” Pecora said. “We got up eight and we thought we had the game won, and we didn’t guard them, they made shots, and they tied the game and we had to gut it out in overtime.”

JMU forward Kyle Swanston (11 points) made consecutive three-pointers, scoring 8 points during a 12-4 run that pulled the Dukes even, 57-57, with 4:15 left in regulation.

Jenkins set up his teammates though, to bring the Pride back, driving and kicking to Sestokas for a three-pointer to put Hofstra up 60-57, before later, feeding Townes for a powerful dunk as part of a three-point play that put Hofstra up 65-62, with 2:07 left in the second half.

Perhaps more than in any other game this season, Jenkins did an outstanding job of playing in control and not forcing tough shots, while getting the ball to his teammates in spots where they could make shots. The star guard credits the recent work that Pecora has done with him in that regard. “Coach always tells me to get in the lane. I don’t always have to make shots, [but] make plays,” Jenkins said. He added, “He tells me to play hard but be patient at the same time, and by doing that, I was able to see the floor.

Part of that development is Pecora teaching Jenkins through studying video of top NBA guards like Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon, and other top guards in the college ranks. Jenkins said, “Coach let’s me see films of the top guards in the nation and recently, I’ve been watching [Pittsburgh’s] Levance Fields a lot, how he handles double teams a lot and how he’s able to make decisions, and I watch how he’s able to handle pressure in the Big East and I was able to see things a lot different tonight and I was more patient on the court.”

Although Jenkins helped get others involved, JMU freshman forward Julius Wells, wouldn’t let his Dukes go down easily. Wells

scored 8 first half points making 5 of 6 at the foul line, but he connected on only 1 of 6 shots from the floor in that half. He was on fire the rest of the way however, finishing with 32 points, making 10 of his final 14 attempts from the field.

Wells tied the game, 65-65, on a left-wing three-pointer with 1:58 remaining in the second half. Jenkins then made a beautiful drive through some tough traffic, to put the Pride back up, 67-65, with 1:16 to go, but Wells answered again, tying the game, 67-67, on a layup with :55.6 left.

Hofstra then survived regulation after a Jenkins turnover in the backcourt led to two missed shots and a block by Townes in the final seconds, causing Pecora to later reflect on his team’s defensive lapses late in the second half, particularly that of Lester, despite Lester finishing with a career-high 22 points on and a career-high-tying 11 rebounds.

Just before his postgame opening statement to the press, Pecora told Lester, sitting to his left, “If you didn’t give up four three’s, we would have ended this thing in regulation.” When Lester responded with a slight smile, “Pecora replied, “I’m serious.”

Lester seemed to be just a little annoyed with that, thinking he had played a good game, and Pecora recognized Lester’s offensive game, saying “Offensively, Nathaniel did a good job, getting another double-double, but he’s gotten to the point where he’s elevated his game to where he gets 22 points and 11 rebounds and I’m mad at him.”

“I think that speaks in volumes,” he continued, “Because I expect more from him, especially at the defensive end… “He’s playing within his basketball skin. He’s doing things he can do. He’s not trying to do things he doesn’t do well. He’s playing within himself, and we smartened up to a certain degree, and we’re getting him the ball in certain spots on the floor that are allowing him to be successful. He’s just a player, he can play three different positions, the 2, 3, or 4 for us… and that’s a great weapon to have… “He’s just got to get used to me yelling at him sometimes. That’ll come.”

The coach’s earlier criticisms were warranted and were simply the result of trying to make his team see the bigger picture.

Though Pecora is happy with any win, he said “I’m coaching to win a CAA championship.”

Jenkins appears to have the same hunger whether or not Hofstra can earn a coveted first-round bye in next month’s CAA tournament, saying “There hasn’t been a championship around here in a long time, and no matter where we are in the standings, we not only want to get there, but win.”

On Lester, Pecora repeated an often-used mantra from the days of former Hofstra stars Loren Stokes and Antoine Agudio, saying “With greatness, comes responsibility.”

“Now you know how Charles feels,” Pecora said to Lester, “Because Charles goes out and gets 25 points] and I bring him in the office and I yell at him because I see what he can be.”

In the first overtime, Jenkins scored 5 points, making 3 of 4 free throws before hitting a layup, to give Hofstra a seemingly comfortable 78-71 lead with 1:40 left, but Wells again brought JMU back, making a layup to bring the Dukes to within 80-77, and making another layup, tying the score at 81-81, with :33.4 remaining. Hofstra then held for the final shot. Jenkins had an opportunity to drive but pulled up at the top of the key and hit guard Corenelius Vines on the right wing, but Vines missed a three-pointer, and time expired on the ensuing loose ball, forcing a second overtime.

That set the stage for the heroics of Sestokas, who had been buried on the bench most of the season until recently becoming a significant part of the offense over the past five games.

While heating up, Sestokas said he felt the same as usual. “Every game, I’m feeling the same, I guess, but sometimes it goes in, sometimes not,” he said.

Despite averaging just 12.3 minutes per game and missing 9 of Hofstra’s 27 games this season, the Lithuanian sharp-shooter had no problem staying on the floor for a career-high 43 minutes.

Hofstra was without point guard Greg Johnson for most of the game (he played just 7 minutes due to a first-half shoulder injury) and Greg Washington missed the entire game with the flu, but Pecora recognized Sestokas along with those two as being three of the best-conditioned players on the team. Pecora said, “Zyggy, and Greg Johnson, and Greg Washington, can just run and run and run. They just don’t get tired. They’re in tremendous shape.”

Realizing the importance of Hofstra’s stretch run this time of year, Sestokas added “We’re not allowed to be tired right now.”

And, he certainly wasn’t as he was locked in a fierce shooting duel with Wells in the final extra session. A Wells layup put JMU ahead 86-83, capping a 5-0 Dukes’ run, but Sestokas tied the game, 86-86, with a left wing three-pointer on an assist from Jenkins.

Wells and Sestokas then traded three-pointers, to tie the game for the 11th and final time, 89-89, with 1:54 left in the game. With 1:10 to go, Sestokas made a right-wing three to put Hofstra up for good, 92-90, before a heads-up play by Jenkins which all but iced the game. Jenkins stole an inbounds pass to the left of the Hofstra basket, and alertly turned and fired up court to a breaking Lester who made a shaky but successful layup for a 94-90 Hofstra lead with :42.3 remaining.

After a 30-second timeout, Townes committed an ill-advised foul, causing Jenkins to act like the captain he is, grabbing Townes by the jersey and getting in the senior’s ear. Jenkins later said, “I told him to just contain and contest without fouling, and I was a little upset with him, I was telling him it was a bad play and we needed him on the floor, but you live and you learn.”

Wells made it interesting with yet another three-pointer with :05.6 left, cutting the Pride’s lead to 98-96. Senior forward Mike Davis-Saab scored his only point of the game, making a free throw after missing one, and then having a second miss wiped out by a JMU lane violation with :03.5 left.

JMU had one last chance but missed a very long, contested, desperation three-pointer as time expired on what ended up being the highest-scoring game in the 10-year history of The Mack Sports Complex (ironically, the previous highs for points by one team, and combined points for two teams, were in Hofstra’s 95-88 triple overtime win February 9, 2005).

Jenkins admitted that the game was entertaining (even to play in) but was in line with Pecora’s view of it. Of the 56 college games he’s played in, Jenkins said “This was the most exciting, but [the] best game? Nah, because we didn’t play like we were capable of playing. We’ve played better games.”

Hofstra next has a chance to do that on Saturday, but not within the conference. With the Pride winning 8 of its past 10 games, Pecora would probably rather not travel to MAAC member Fairfield for Saturday evening’s ESPN Bracketbuster game in favor of continuing Hofstra’s push toward gaining the best seeding possible for the CAA tournament. Chuckling a bit, Pecora said of the Bracketbuster game, which almost certainly won’t help Hofstra get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, “It is what it is, it's Bracketbuster on Saturday.”

Jenkins had a slightly different take, saying “Every game, whether we win or lose, we watch film and learn from our mistakes, so it gives us another chance to play out different scenarios that could possibly happen when we’re in the [CAA tournament].”

With so much parity in the CAA this year, Pecora believes that tournament “is gonna be a wild one.”

If it’s anything like Wednesday night’s JMU-Hofstra game, it will be.

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Note:

Jenkins’ 32 points against JMIU gives him 944 career points. With 3 regular season games remaining, if Jenkins maintains his current average of 18.8 ppg, he will become the first sophomore ever at Hofstra to reach 1,000 points during the regular season of a sophomore year (Hofstra’s all-time leading scorer, Antoine Agudio, reached that mark as a sophomore, but not until the CAA Tournament.
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Game 26: Jenkins Carries Hofstra To 3rd Straight Win
by jjwagner
Feb 14, 2009 | 7782 views | 0 0 comments | 133 133 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
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SAT 02/14/09

HOFSTRA 69, DELAWARE 59

HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 17-9, 9-6 CAA

PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: tied for 5th

JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 18.3 pts, 4.9 reb, 3.6 ast, 3.3 to

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Sometimes, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Other times, they show everything.

The latter is the case in Hofstra’s win at Delaware on Saturday, and in looking at how the numbers from that game are sort of a microcosm of the Pride’s season to this point.

It’s a simple formula. When Charles Jenkins scores, and gets others involved, Hofstra wins…

First half at Delaware on Saturday:

Jenkins - 9 pts on 4-11 fg, 3 ast, 2 to; Hofstra - 22 pts on 27% (9-34 fg) shooting.

Hofstra’s 9 middle games this season: Jenkins - 12.2 ppg, didn’t reach 20 pts once; Hofstra 3-6 record.

See a pattern?

Second half at Delaware on Saturday…

Jenkins - 17 pts on 5-7 fg, 6 ast, 0 to; Hofstra:47 pts on 62% (16-26 fg) shooting.

Hofstra’s first 8 games this season: Jenkins - 21.8 ppg, 6 games scoring > 20 pts; Hofstra started 7-1, and ...

Hofstra’s last 9 games this season:

Jenkins - 21.3 ppg, 6 games scoring > 20 pts; Hofstra 7-2 record and a current 3-game win streak.

See a drastically different pattern?

The return to the earlier blue (and gold) print, could have Hofstra peaking at exactly the right time, with just four regular season games left for the Pride before it begins its quest for a CAA tournament championship and an NCAA tournament berth next month.

How about a few more numbers and a couple more patterns?

With its strong second-half performance, Hofstra made 41% of its field goal attempts for the game on Saturday, making the Pride a perfect 10-0 this season when it shoots at least 40% from the floor. When the Pride shoots under 40% from the field this season? A very different 7-9 record.

A big part of those last set of numbers is not only Jenkins scoring during the good stretches versus not scoring during the bad streaks, but helping his teammates get good looks and making them key parts of the offense. That’s something which has happened a lot during Hofstra’s recent resurgence from a team which started 2-4 in the CAA to a team which at 9-6, is positioning it self pretty well for a CAA tournament seed which could allow itself to make some significant noise in that tournament. And, it happened again on Saturday.

Two other main parts of Jenkins’ local sophomore class, Nathaniel Lester (Canarsie) and Greg Washington (Centereach) also followed the above model. When Jenkins struggled in the first half, so did they (Lester and Washington: just 2 points each in that half). But, when Jenkins turned it up in the second half, not only scoring, but handing out 6 of 8 game-high assists (which were most of Hofstra’s 11 for the game), that helped guys like Lester (10 second-half points) and Washington (8 second-half points) become key contributors. It also helped get senior forward Zygis Sestokas on track to make two three-pointers in the second half, to finish with 9 points, after he made just one trey in the second half.

As a result, Hofstra, as the numbers show above, was a tale of two completely different halves at Delaware, with Jenkins a lot more on his game after halftime. The Pride started slowly (trailing 9-4), before going on a big 13-2 run (to lead 17-11), only to see the Blue Hens close the half on 16-5 run, to grab a 27-22 lead by halftime.

After Delaware extended that lead to 29-22, Hofstra stormed back with a 12-0 run, to go up 34-29, with 14:50 left in the game, with Jenkins (7 points), Lester (3 points), and Washington (2 points) accounting for all of the scoring during that surge.

The Blue Hens regained the lead, 45-43, with 9:44 remaining, but again, Jenkins scoring and setting up his teammates, brought the Pride back. Jenkins made a jumper, assisted on both a three-pointer by Sestokas and a jumper by senior forward Arminas Urbutis (4 points). That completed a 7-0 run which put Hofstra back up, 50-45, with 7:41 to go.

Again though, Delaware (11-16, 5-10 CAA) wouldn’t go away, tying the game 52-52 with 5:19 left. But, a Lester jumper with 5:05 remaining put the Pride up for good, 54-52. After that, it was again, all Jenkins (6 points), Washington (6 points), and Lester (3 points) at the offensive end, to help Hofstra pull away to a double-digit win.

Jenkins assisted on two key hoops by Washington (shots that gave Hofstra leads of 58-53, and later, 61-55); Lester got to the line, where he made 3 of 4 free throws; and Jenkins closed things out making 4 of 4 at the line in the final :27.

Next up for the Pride will be a big CAA showdown at home, on Wednesday, with James Madison, a team that Hofstra beat in the road by a point, on a game-winner by Jenkins in the final seconds on January 24th. The winner will still have a decent shot at CAA tourney first-round bye, the loser will likely have to win four games in four days in that tourney (never an easy feat), and could fall to as low as a 7 seed.

The conference has become so competitive in recent weeks, that Hofstra and JMU are two of the top seven teams, separated by only two games, and they’re each tied with Old Dominion (16-9, 9-6 CAA), just a half-game behind fourth-place Drexel (13-10, 9-5 CAA), and only game behind third-place George Mason (17-8, 10-5 CAA). Tied at the top, are VCU (18-8, 11-4 CAA) and Northeastern (16-9, 11-4 CAA).
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