By Max Sass, Sports Editor
RICHMOND, VA – The Hofstra Pride men's basketball team left for Richmond, VA as the hottest team in the conference, having won six-straight games. Friday night, junior forward Greg Washington hit a jump shot with 16 seconds on the clock to beat Georgia State and send Hofstra on to the second round. The quarterfinal game was even more exciting as a number of last second heroics forced double overtime in the Pride's eventual loss to Northeastern.
A layup by Georgia State senior guard Joe Dukes left the Pride trailing 66-67 with just 30 seconds remaining in the first game. After a timeout, the Pride came out and put the ball in the hands of 2010 CAA Player of the Year, junior guard Charles Jenkins. Jenkins drove to the basket, but was cut off by two Panther defenders. Jenkins wheeled on a dime and dished the ball to Washington who proceeded to hit a 15-foot jump shot to give the Pride a 68-67 lead.
"That wasn't even the play," Washington said following the win. "You want the ball in the hands of your best player and of course Charles had it, and I was just in the right spot at the right time."
Jenkins had four assists on the day, but his last one was the biggest. "Charles makes plays to help you win, he doesn't just make shots," said head coach Tom Pecora, who led his team to their nineteenth victory of the season.
The game ended in exciting fashion, but for most of the second half, Hofstra led by a comfortable margin. The Pride led by eight at 53-45 with eight minutes to play in the game, but Georgia State went on an 8-0 run to tie the game. The Panthers even took the lead twice over the last 2:03 of the game.
Hofstra had previously beaten Georgia State at the Mack Sports Complex 87-74 but cold not pull away this time. "I thought their effort was greater than ours for stretches of the game," said Pecora. "They did a very good job changing up defenses on Charles," Pecora added.
Jenkins scored 24 points on 8-20 shooting in the game. Jenkins, along with fellow guard, freshman Chaz Williams, bore the brunt of the work, as each played the entire game. "I am feeling fine," Jenkins said. "It is March, there is no time for me to complain about an injury."
Pecora knew the Pride must play its own game to go far in the tournament, which it did not do against Georgia State. "They [Georgia State] shot 47 percent and we out rebounded them by one," said Pecora. "That is not Hofstra basketball."
The magic ran out for the team Saturday night as they fell to Northeastern 74-71 in double overtime. The Huskies needed a 4-0 run over the last 2:22 of regulation to force the first overtime. The next five minutes were even more exciting as senior guard Cornelius Vines hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to keep the Pride alive.
It took a 3-pointer by senior guard Matt Janning with 45 seconds left in double overtime to win the game for the Huskies. Four foul shots by the Huskies were needed to seal the victory, but the number two seed Northeastern was forced into a battle with the seventh seeded Pride. "This exemplifies March Madness," said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.
"Our inexperience just poked its head out enough," said Pecora following the loss. CAA All-Rookie team members Williams and forward Halil Kanacevic combined for 16 points, but also had 8 combined turnovers.
Vines, who played his last game in a Hofstra uniform had a box of tissues on the bench and was flanked by Williams and Jenkins who were each equally emotional.
"I just didn't want it to be over," said Vines. "I promised them I would give them everything I had." Jenkins sat at the post game press conference with his head down and his hands over his eyes. "I hate losing, especially when it's times like this," he said.
Jenkins play backed up his CAA Player of the Year honor, scoring 24 points with eight rebounds and four assists in 49 minutes of play. Northeastern's Janning was 3-13 from the floor at one point in the game, but finished 6-16, hitting his last three shots to down the Pride.
Hofstra finishes the season 19-14 and 11-9 in conference after starting out CAA play with a 2-7 record. Saturday's game against Northeastern was the third matchup between the two teams, with each team winning a game in the regular season.
The Pride traveled back to Hempstead on Sunday to finish up the spring semester and prepare for a possible postseason tournament invite. The plan is to "rest our bodies, get ourselves iced up and we will be back on floor on Tuesday," Pecora said.