By Joe Pantorno, Sports Editor
The last time the Hofstra men's basketball team hosted James Madison, Charles Jenkins scored 35 points in a Hofstra comeback win that included game tying free throws from now sophomore guard Shemiye McLendon with 17 seconds remaining in regulation forcing overtime. A Hofstra surge led by Jenkins, McLendon and sophomore forward Stephen Nwaukoni gave Hofstra the 92-89 win and Hofstra a 14-6 record with an 8-1 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) record.
In a matchup of two CAA stars in Jenkins and JMU's Denzel Bowles, who recorded 27 points and 15 rebounds, the game was a headliner of the conference slate last season.
A lot has changed since then. Both Jenkins and Bowles have graduated and both teams are struggling to find its identity. Finishing close to the top of the conference last season, Hofstra and JMU have been picked to finish in the middle of the standings this year in the preseason polls.
James Madison comes into Saturday's game with a 3-2 record, its most recent game being a two point victory over the University of Pennsylvania, 60-58.
"This is a nice change of pace," said Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara. "It's nice talking about the CAA and our conference."
The Dukes will bring in a two headed scoring threat with junior guard AJ Davis, averaging 22.8 points per game (ppg), and senior guard Humpty Hitchens, adding 17.6 ppg.
This is a team that does not have much depth however, as outside of four starters that average in double figures, James Madison has five players that average fewer than five points per game.
Eyes will be on senior guards Stevie Mejia and Dwan McMillan not only to stop Hitchens but to frustrate and stall the offense as a whole. With Hitchens stifled and not being able to feed the likes of Davis, Hofstra might be able to hold James Madison to a low scoring output.
There will also be a focus on senior forward Nathaniel Lester to start putting together consistent scoring efforts. In Hofstra's last three games, Lester recorded 22, 10 and four points. In order to compliment leading scorer, senior guard Mike Moore, Lester will need to start putting together big games more often.
"We get to focus on winning games in our league now," said Cassara. "We're real excited to have a week back in the gym a little bit."