It's Friday morning, and it's time for more game reports. First, though, let's take a look back at Thursday's action via 360
, including the strange story of Towson getting caught in the snow on the way to George Mason. Colonial: Virginia Commonwealth beats Hofstra 82-67 (G!O!T!N!)West Coast: McConnell scores 27, hits game-winner as Saint Mary's edges Gonzaga 73-71Badlands: Centenary remains lone winless D-I team after 76-66 loss at IPFWColonial: Towson team stuck in 10-hour traffic, misses gameColonial: CAA reprimands Towson after team gets stuck in snowColonial: George Mason blows out Towson 84-58Big South: Brown's Put Back Lifts Liberty Over Asheville In OvertimeOhio Valley: Early second-half spurt propels Austin Peay to comeback victory at Eastern KentuckyBig West: Nunnally's Buzzer-Beater Lifts UCSB to Thrilling Win at Cal Poly, 71-70Thursday's ScoreboardThursday's Linescores
This is, once again, our future experiment in college basketball crowdsourcing. the centerpiece of TMM in 2011-12 will be the 800 Game Project, an extension of what's been done here for years now. We're looking for game reports (from you
) from games involving at least one Other 25 team
that balance action, atmosphere, and context. On Fridays, we'll post entries we've received through The Form™
. This is just a practice run; it'll be a greater percentage of what this site is come 2011-12.
Our first entry this week comes from Gary Moore, who's been running the excellent College Hardwood
blog for a long time. It has an emphasis on Hofstra, and he was at Monday's overtime thriller at Hempstead
between the Pride and James Madison. Somehow, he found enough time to send us a report while writing thousands of words on his own site.
I started writing my college basketball blog five years ago. It was first about CAA basketball, and then it expanded to other mid majors. But being a fan of Hofstra basketball, the core was always about the Pride. And the last time Hofstra got off to a 7-1 start in the Colonial was the 2006-07 season.
Thus, with Hofstra entering the game at 7-1 in conference, last night's contest with James Madison was huge. It was the second game in a stretch of four games in eight days and it was the midway point for the conference season. Hofstra is looking to finish in the top four in the conference. The top four teams in the CAA get an important first round bye in the conference tournament.
During this time of year, if your team is doing well, many of your thoughts, concerns, and hopes often lie with your team's schedule and play. And it was especially like that for me for the past two days since Hofstra won Saturday at William & Mary. "OK, if they beat James Madison, they will be up three games on the Dukes including the tiebreaker." "Greg Washington has to stay out of foul trouble." "Charles Jenkins has to shoot well from outside tonight and get involved early," etc, etc, etc.
Hofstra has a marquee player in Jenkins, the reigning CAA Player of the year and a likely NBA draft pick. However, it's hard to draw a large crowd to Pride games due to Hofstra's proximity to New York City, shopping malls, theaters, museums, etc. However, Hofstra students were back on campus Monday night, and the Lion's Den student section was full of loud supportive fans that made up for a half-empty arena.
As for the game itself, it was like most basketball games -- a game of runs. Hofstra jumped out to a 7-0 lead, then Madison buried three after three after three on a 15-0 run. The game was 41-28 at the half, with Julius Wells and Denzel Bowles scoring more points combined than Hofstra had. The fans that I know in my section, 111, wondered how Hofstra would stop Madison.
Hofstra switched to man-to-man D and Bowles, Madison's potential NBA draft pick, went to town on the smaller Hofstra post players. The result looked in doubt for the home team as the visitors were up 69-58 with a little less than seven minutes left. But Hofstra rallied to cut the lead to one 78-77, bringing the Hempstead crowd to a frenzy.
Basketball is often a microcosm of life and often the little things mean so much, especially mistakes. And when JMU's Andrey Semenov was called for a lane violation on his own teammate's second free throw, the Pride had their opportunity to tie. And a freshman, Shemiye McLendon tied the game at 79 with two free throws. Then with the entire crowd standing, Hofstra denied JMU a tying basket at the end of second half. Regulation was not enough for these two evenly matched teams.
In the overtime, Jenkins imposed his will, as he often does, and Hofstra went out to a seven point lead. But Wells and Bowles brought Madison back, and the lead was back down to one. Madison had the ball with 17 seconds left. Semenov tried to atone for his gaffe at the end of regulation, but his layup missed badly. Another Pride freshman, Stephen Nwaukoni got the rebound and was fouled. The 55 percent free throw shooter calmly hit two of them. Hofstra then fouled Wells before he could attempt a game-tying three. Wells hit the first, and purposely missed the second, hoping his teammates could get a rebound for a putback. But Jenkins was there -- as always for Hofstra -- and got the rebound. The Hofstra players on the bench rushed the court in jubilation and then the entire Hofstra team celebrated with the Lion's Den faithful.
After the game, I talked with my good friend and fellow season ticket holder Tony. He was trying to convince me to take a road trip to see the game vs. VCU on Thursday. I told him I had too many work obligations on my calendar. He replied to me, the long time Hofstra fan, that there should only be three letters on my calendar.
Those three letters ended up spelling doom (wait, that's four) for Hofstra's momentary first-place tie in the CAA standings, but the JMU-Hofstra matchup was clearly the more classic of the Pride's two games this week.
Now, on to the Patriot League. Bucknell stayed perfect in conference (6-0) with an 81-68 win
at Lehigh's Stabler Arena on Wednesday, but no boxscore can show the fan dynamic at work in Bison Nation right now. After the two consecutive Round of 32 campaigns and periodic Big East upsets in the mid-1990s, there was a long period of readjustment, typified best with a seven-win season in 2008-09. So a good number of alumni are coming back to the fold and examining their relationships to the program and their fellow fans. Sometimes the result is frustration, as Ty shows us.
Wednesday's Bucknell-Lehigh contest was the first Bucknell game I've been to since graduating three years ago. I've turned down dozens of Bucknell Club of Philadelphia invites to mingle and see a game near me, since I was done arguing about the team with a fanbase I felt no connection to. But watching Mike Muscala eviscerate American one #pixelvision night, scoring at will on the Eagles, made me interested in Bucknell basketball for the first time since I left. The closest Bucknell would come to my area was Lehigh, so my dad and I bought tickets and drove up to Bethlehem.
Muscala scored the first bucket of the game ten seconds in as Bucknell raced out to a 22-8 lead. Half the crowd (which looked to be closer to 200 than the stated 555) were Bucknell fans who enjoyed that run. I didn't really pay attention to them, though, because I was caught up in the action. Muscala and Bryson Johnson keyed the open, with support from G.W. Boon. The Bison maintained that lead throughout the game, with occasional dips to either side.
But the fans started to get to me. Fifty-year-old overgrown frat boys called out players' first names like they knew them. Others offered profoundly stupid advice free of charge. "Stroke it, Bryson, stroke it." "Ok, boys, tighten up the defense now." I thought about yelling something in return but remained quiet and tried to enjoy the action.
But the game got really chippy in the second half. Just over three minutes in, Lehigh's coach was ejected for running halfway across the court to scream for a foul call he wanted. The two teams combined for a fifty-four free-throw, fifty-five shot-attempt second half marred by whistles and epithets. Once my immersion in the game's rhythm was broken, I began to get angrier as each team's fans began to scream at referees at each push and contact, upset at perceived unfairness. It was a typical Bucknell crowd and they behaved according to form.
As we left and watched a ninety-minute drive turn into a two-hundred-and-twenty-minute drive thanks to the foot of falling snow, I was able to internalize my feelings a bit more. I won't be able to enjoy Bucknell basketball because of Bucknell people. We don't get along and that's that. But just like a layer of snow hides the imperfections of the ground, covering it with a layer of beauty, watching The Rock (the official ball of the Patriot League) fly around, drop through the hoop, and flow freely on a court covers whatever imperfections we all bring to the arena. It's not the win or loss, it's the game that brings me back.
If you have any ideas about how we can make the 800GP good next season, please Form™ them in
. I think the best game reports are the ones that not only recap what happened on the court, but also take into account how it felt to be in the stands before, during and after -- the personal and individual reactions to being at a college basketball game. Those are elements that most journalism and blogging either has no time for or miss completely, but that kind of writing is far less common and disposable than speculation. When one tries to forecast what's going to happen next based on observed action, one is distracted from that moment, loses hold of it. And it always looks goofy later whenever it's wrong -- which even for the anointed "experts" happens more often than not.
So... we'd like to dissuade potential correspondents from traditional "analysis," if at all possible.
We'll run some more next Friday. We've been very heavy on the Eastern seaboard and Midwest Coast so far... I know we have lots of folks who read the site down South and out West. Are you going to a game this weekend? Send us a few hundred words about what it was like!