HOFSTRA 60, FORDHAM 40
HOFSTRA RECORD: 5-1
JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 21.5 pts, 5.0 reb, 4.5 ast, 3.0 to
I witnessed two teams going in opposite directions on a special night at The Mack, as Jenkins and the Pride won their 5th straight since their season-opening loss, sending winless Fordham to its 6th consecutive loss to start the season (its worst start in its 106 years of playing college basketball).
As I mentioned in the last blog, it would be a night to see Steve Nisenson's number 13 retired before the game, the first ever basketball jersey to hang from the rafters at Hofstra. The pre-game ceremony was a touching one as they introduced the man who (until last season) held the Hofstra career scoring record for 43 years, before his banner was then unveiled in front of 2,680 fans and many others, including 7 of Nisenson's former teammates. It's appropriate that the first syllable of Nisenson's last name is pronounced like the word "nice" since he's easily one of the most gracious and genuine athletes (or former athletes) I ever had the pleasure of interviewing. With all that he accomplished, setting a record that stood for over four decades, in just THREE seasons, and without the benefit of the three-point line when he played, Nisenson said that the greatest thing in his Hofstra career was "the friendships developed through basketball." Nisenson added, "I knew someone would eventually break my record, but no one will take away those friendships, or my family" (Nisenson met his wife through his basketball relationships).
On Jenkins, Nisenson said "I think he's a terrific player. I think he's going to get better as the years go by." And, when I mentioned that Jenkins entered tonight's game on pace (42 points ahead of the current Hofstra scoring record holder Antoine Agudio at the same point Agudio's career) to become the newest Hofstra career scoring leader by the time Jenkins is a senior, Nisenson wished Jenkins luck, warmly smiled, and said "You never know, he could do it, you never know."
On to the game now... Much like Hofstra's only other home game thus far (against Old Westbury), the Pride kept it a game early, having trouble scoring against an inferior opponent in the opening half before pulling away for a blowout win in the second half.
Despite missing 12 straight shots at one point, Fordham hung "Ram tough" in the first 20 minutes, as the Pride needed to close the half on a 7-0 run just to take a slim 27-23 lead by halftime. By that point, Jenkins had faced a lot of box-and-one defense from the Rams which limited him to just four shots from the floor. He made just one of those, and did not get to the free throw line in scoring just 2 points by halftime for the second straight game.
Hofstra Head Coach Tom Pecora thought it was a good test for what's to come later for Jenkins, saying "Charles is going to see more of it as teams will throw everything but the kitchen sink at him and we've got to be prepared for those kinds of things."
Jenkins, the team captain, despite being the youngest player on the team at an age of 19 years and 9 months (Hofstra has no freshmen this season), showed his maturity and leadership, adapting quickly to Fordham's defensive game plan, saying "I was put in a position where they tried to take me out of the game so it was an opportunity for me to get my teammates some shots. It's always good to get my teammates involved." That philosophy led to Jenkins tying his career high of 5 assists by halftime.
As expected, Jenkins picked up his scoring in the second half and the Pride pulled away. But, it was the mix of not only scoring but looking to set up his teammates, that demonstrated Jenkins' growth as as a player and which won the game for Hofstra tonight. The Pride were only up 34-32 with 15:18 left, when Jenkins iginted a 14-0 run over the next 3:39 that put the game away. On the next four Hofstra possessions, Jenkins nailed his only three-pointer of the night; assisted on a three-pointer; assisted on a short jumper on a nice drive to draw the Fordham defense before dishing; and after hitting the floor and getting tangled up under his own basket with a Fordham player, hustled down to the other end of the floor to take a pass in the lane and finish with a beautiful, hanging layup off the glass. Game over at that point, but for good measure, Hofstra then extended the lead with a couple more buckets, to go up 48-32.
Jenkins ended up tying senior three-point specialist Zygis Sestokas (who made three treys tonight) for the team lead with 11 points. But, it was Jenkins' unselfish play, settling for just 11 shots, grabbing 4 rebounds, and handing out a career-high 9 assists, that allowed six other Hofstra players to take between 5 and 8 shots (including bigs Greg Washington, who posted his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Miklos Szabo, who contributed 10 points and 8 rebounds).
After the game Pecora gushed about the Jenkins, who the coach considers not only his best player, but his hardest worker.
"We may be a lot of things, but we're not selfish. When your best player is willing to sacrifice like that, that's when you win basketball games," Pecora said.
"He does whatever it takes to win a basketball game," Pecora added, "That's why you gotta love him. He's got a great attitude, he's a great teammate. Tonight, he knows that Fordham's going to do everything they can to stop him, and he goes and gets 9 assists."
Up next for Hofstra is the annual quirk in the schedule which always bugs me. Smack in the middle of playing 11 non-conference games, is the lone conference game, at Colonial Athletic Association foe Towson, on Saturday night. I really wish they'd just play the full non-conference schedule (other than the February ESPN Bracketbuster) before getting into conference play. But, they do it every year with this one early misplaced CAA game. Oh well, not a big deal, just a little scheduling pet peeve of mine. Talk to you guys again over the weekend.