It was a rainy Tuesday night in Hempstead, New York. I guess that was partly the reason for the sparse crowd at the Hofstra Mack Center. The other reason might have been that there were no classes for undergraduate students on Wednesday for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Thus the Lions Den student section was not even half full. I wonder how many of the 1,436 that were in attendance last night knew that this was a return match up from last season.
Last December on this very court, Florida Atlantic held off Hofstra 63-59 as Greg Gantt and Raymond Taylor combined for 31 points in the victory. The Owls also out-rebounded the Pride 30-21. Gantt, Taylor and five other Owls from last season returned for FAU in this contest.
The Pride's Mike Moore was looking to have a much better game this time around after only scoring eight points in last season's contest. Hofstra was shooting 48.6 percent from the field on the season. Moore has been largely responsible, shooting 50 percent from the field entering the game vs. FAU while averaging 20.7 points per game.
The two teams played a very close first half. There were three ties and the largest lead by any team was five points (twice by Hofstra). There was a large disparity in free throws as the Owls were 5 of 8 from the line while the Pride were 11 of 14. Throw in Hofstra outscoring FAU 7-1 on second chance points and thus you had a Pride halftime lead at 32-27.
Even though the Lions' Den section was decimated by turkey day travel plans, they were very creative when it came to the Owls' diminutive guard Raymond Taylor, who is generously listed at 5 foot 6. The Lions' Den serenaded Taylor with chants of "Booster Seat", "Ooompa Loompa" and of course everyone's favorite "Gary Coleman". Due to Taylor's four fouls, his time with his new admirers was limited.
After saying hi to an old friend up in the second level, my older son Matthew and I headed out to the Mack Center lobby during halftime and signed up for the free Junior Pride Club membership. Matthew got a free T-shirt and wasted no time in putting it on before the start of the second half.
Hofstra also wasted no time at the start of the second half. Baskets by Steve Mejia, who had his best game all season for the Pride, and Moore put Hofstra up nine, 36-27. It looked like the Pride might be pulling away from the Owls.
But during a timeout, Mike Jarvis did a hockey line change and that seemed to awaken FAU. The Owls went on a 13-0 run capped by a Omari Grier three pointer, one of eight on the night for Florida Atlantic, and FAU was up 40-36. After Hofstra responded with four straight points to tie the game at 40 with 12:22 left, Mike Jarvis brought Gantt back in the game.
Gantt took over the game from there. He hit a three, then followed with a layup to put the Owls back up five, 45-40. However, the Pride came back with the next six points, with Moore scoring four of them to put Hofstra back up one, 46-45. The Pride would maintain the lead, 51-49 with 5:08 left, but Gantt wasn't done yet.
Gantt would score on FAU's next four possessions. The last one was a huge three pointer that put the Owls up two 58-56 with 1:24 left after Moore had hit three free throws to put Hofstra up one. But when Gantt responded, Moore responded back. Moore would hit another two free throws to tie the game at fifty eight with fifty eight seconds left. Hofstra called a thirty second timeout.
Here's where a coach's decision led to the final score. In this case, Mike Jarvis did something that my friends Mal, Tieff and I believe in, but rarely see. I turned to Tieff during the timeout and asked "Do you think Jarvis will do a 'two for one' here?" This means that the Owls could quickly get a shot off within ten-fifteen seconds on their first possession. Then the Pride would have at most thirty five seconds to take their shot, leaving time left on the clock for one more possession/shot by FAU. Thus, a two for one possession.
Well, FAU took only fourteen seconds as Alex Tucker hit a jumper to put the Owls back up two, 60-58. Hofstra quickly responded, as who else, Moore, hit two free throws to tie the game at sixty with twenty six seconds left. But this setup FAU for the last possession with the shot clock turned off. The Owls ran time off the clock. With the clock winding down, Tucker again took the shot, an off balance layup that somehow bounced into the basket. There were only 2.4 seconds left on the clock and Hofstra was down 62-60.
Coach Mo Cassara called timeout and setup a play. When Hofstra came out in their set, Jarvis immediately called timeout to change his defense. With all the fans standing up, Hofstra inbounded the ball. Mejia tossed the ball to Lester on the baseline, who threw a baseball pass down the court trying to hit Moore. However, both Moore and the FAU defender both went for the pass. The ball deflected off them and as time expired, Shemiye McLendon literally batted the ball into the basket.
However, it was clear from our vantage point that the buzzer had clearly sounded before McLendon hit the ball. After the officials reviewed the play and officially stated no the basket, Jarvis raised his fists in triumph. FAU had held on for the 62-60 victory, their second consecutive victory over Hofstra. It was also their third victory over a CAA team this season (the Owls also defeated George Mason and Georgia State).
Gantt was dominant in the last final twelve plus minutes, scoring fourteen of his twenty one points on the night. The only other Owl in double figures was Pablo Bertone with eleven points. FAU shot eight of nineteen from beyond the arc and shot forty two percent on the night.
Moore led the Pride with twenty points. Mejia added fourteen and McLendon came off the bench to add twelve points. The Pride shot twenty of twenty three from the free throw line, but they had by far their worst outing from the field on the season. Hofstra shot twenty six percent from the field in the second half and thirty percent overall. Strangely, the Pride were four of seven from beyond the arc. The bright side is that Hofstra continues to improve on their rebounding from last season. The Pride out-rebounded the Owls forty two to thirty four, which included twenty offensive rebounds for Hofstra.
We said our goodbyes to Tieff, as well as Defiantly Dutch and his much better half, Michelle. As my older son and I made our trek back to our car in a cold downpour, it seemed appropriate for the evening. For the second year in a row, Gantt rained on Hofstra's parade, so why shouldn't Mother Nature rain on ours as well.
I hope she is more kind when I head up to Rhode Island on Friday for a weekend of hoops.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC 62, at HOFSTRA 60 11/22/2011
FLORIDA ATLANTIC 3-3 (0-0) -- K. White 3-8 1-2 7; P. Bertone 5-11 0-0 11; G. Gantt 8-15 2-2 21; R. Taylor 1-5 0-0 3; O. Grier 2-6 3-3 9; A. Tucker 3-3 2-2 8; S. Richardson 1-3 0-0 3; K. Penn 0-1 0-0 0; A. Mattison 0-0 0-0 0; D. Mavin 0-1 0-2 0; J. Floyd 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 8-11 62. HOFSTRA 2-2 (0-0) -- N. Lester 1-13 4-5 6; D. Imes 1-6 1-2 4; S. McLendon 5-8 2-2 12; M. Moore 5-11 9-9 20; S. Mejia 5-11 2-2 14; M. Kone 0-2 0-0 0; D. McMillan 0-5 1-2 1; S. Nwaukoni 1-4 1-1 3. Totals 18-60 20-23 60.
Three-point goals: FAU 8-19 (S. Richardson 1-3; G. Gantt 3-7; R. Taylor 1-2; P. Bertone 1-3; O. Grier 2-4), HOFS 4-7 (N. Lester 0-1; S. Mejia 2-3; D. Imes 1-1; M. Moore 1-2); Rebounds: FAU 32 (K. White 10), HOFS 41 (N. Lester 12); Assists: FAU 16 (A. Tucker 6), HOFS 7 (M. Moore 3); Total Fouls -- FAU 20, HOFS 11; Fouled Out: FAU-None; HOFS-None.