By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
The Hofstra University men's basketball team dropped its first conference game of the season to Old Dominion 75-64, falling to 5-1 in CAA play and 11-6 overall.
"They came up here and clearly were the more physical team," said head coach Mo Cassara. "One of our weaknesses is our thin front court and inexperienced bench."
Old Dominion tried pounding the ball inside to start the game, but senior center Greg Washington blocked four shots in the first two minutes. The defense proved very strong as the undersized Pride fared well against the larger Monarchs, holding them scoreless for the first six and a half minutes of the game, starting things on a 12-0 run. Freshman guard Shemiye McLendon led the Pride with five points during that stretch.
When Washington found himself in foul trouble, freshman forward Stephen Nwaukoni and sophomore forward David Imes stayed strong under the basket, working hard against a very physical Old Dominion team. The only source of ODU's points came off offensive rebounds and second chance points as the Monarchs destroyed the Pride on the boards, out rebounding Hofstra 28-13 in the first half.
"His [Washington's] third foul was a tough one," said Cassara. "It took him out of the game a little bit and we had to go small."
Old Dominion fought its way back into the game however, finally being able to break down Hofstra's 2-3-zone defense. With 7:44 remaining in the first half, the Hofstra lead was down to five, with the score at 20-15.
"We got a little tentative and a little tired on defense," said Cassara. "They were able to get some shots and get some offensive rebounds."
ODU was able to grab the lead in the last minute, 29-27 despite the big play of senior guard Charles Jenkins, who had nine points in the first period as both teams hit the locker room looking to improve their offenses.
Some poor offensive possessions to start the second half by Hofstra saw ODU jump out to a nine-point lead with the score at 42-33 with 15:01 left in the game.
Hofstra sprang back to life thanks to the heroics of Washington, Jenkins and junior guard Mike Moore, cutting the ODU lead with an 11-4 run to 46-44.
With Jenkins' first made free throw of two at the 8:50 mark, the senior passed Loren Stokes to move into third place all time on Hofstra's scoring list.
"As a senior I just want to win," said Jenkins. "I could care less about any record."
Old Dominion continued to thrash Hofstra on the boards as missed chances to gain rebounds doomed the Pride as the Monarchs kept Hofstra at bay with great passing and pounding the ball low inside.
"I think the thing that really hurt us tonight was second chance shots," said Cassara. "I think it was 28-7 on second chance opportunities tonight."
The Pride had no answer on defense for Old Dominion's size as the offense scrambled to keep things in contention with the clock winding down.
With Old Dominion in the penalty, the Pride began driving to the basket, trying to close the gap by getting to the free throw line.
With the Pride down four, ODU's Kent Bazemore hit a three to open the Monarchs' lead to seven at 63-56 and putting the game away with Jenkins not even given a chance to reply as the ball somehow did not find his hands.
Hofstra did all they could to cut the lead, but senior guard Brad Kelleher was called for an intentional foul with 26 seconds left that all but sealed the Pride's fate.
"We're still a work in progress," said Cassara. "We're going to keep working, get back to work on Monday and get ready for Wilmington here on Wednesday."