By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
Senior guard Charles Jenkins led the Pride with 32 points as the Hofstra University men's basketball team took down conference rivals George Mason 87-74 for its first win over the Patriots in three years.
Hofstra was able to find senior center Greg Washington early for two easy mid-range jumpers. George Mason however came out flying, using their size to muscle out points under the basket.
First halves have been an adventure for the Pride this season as Jenkins, its leading scorer, tends to pass up scoring opportunities in order to get his teammates more involved. In the opening minutes of the first half, Jenkins was not able to pick the right opportunities to shoot and the right time to dish the ball he did however score nine points in the opening 20.
The Pride was not able to hit its shots from the outside and when a ball was up for the grabs on offense, George Mason did a brilliant job boxing out and collecting their boards to create fast break opportunities.
When Hofstra was able to convert on offense, Mason was able to pass the ball well to create open looks from long range as they opened up their lead to 20-10 with 11:54 left in the first half with eight different scorers making their way onto the score sheet.
The shooting began to improve for the Pride as Kelleher and freshman guard Shemiye McLendon did their best to keep the Pride in the game. After a couple of made three pointers, Hofstra was able to cut Mason's lead to 26-23 with 7:36 remaining.
"We didn't play our best out of the gates," said head coach Mo Cassara. "We really hung in there."
Junior guard Mike Moore's three-pointer tied the game at 30 with five minutes remaining as the Pride's downtown shooting kept them in the game as the Pride shot over 46 percent from downtown in the first half.
With Hofstra grabbing a slim one-point lead for the first time since the early minutes of the game, Kelleher hit a buzzer beater from three-point land off a steal to put Hofstra up 39-35 going into the locker room.
"As important as the shot was, I think the defensive stop going into halftime really gave us some momentum," said Cassara.
The buzzer beater did nothing to deflate the Patriots during the halftime break, as they opened the second half on an 8-0 run.
Hofstra was quick to as Jenkins showed signs of taking the game over, driving aggressively to the basket and taking on two to three different defenders at a time. Jenkins led the 11-0 run to give Hofstra a 50-43 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the game.
The run continued and with Jenkins hitting a three from NBA range, the Pride's run was at 14-0, Jenkins having ten of the points and opening up a nine point lead.
Hofstra began to pick up the pace as the defense really began to frustrate the Patriots as the Pride began wining the battle under the boards and creating the fast break opportunities. A three-pointer from forward Ryan Pearson was Mason's first field goal in almost eight minutes.
The Mason drought enabled Hofstra to open up its lead to 13 points at 61-48 with eight and a half minutes remaining in the game.
Jenkins officially took the game over halfway through the second half, scoring four points in two seconds when he stole an inbound pass after hitting a driving left handed lay up.
George Mason came out of its timeout with a full court press on defense, but the Pride was able to beat it and continue to find open looks, up 16 with four and a half minutes left.
Hofstra was still able to maintain its lead despite some heavy pressure and close out the game despite some sloppy play to close out the 13-point victory, the Pride's second straight.
"I think it sends a tremendous message [to the CAA]," said Cassara. "We're here and we're going to keep battling and keep working."
The Pride improves to 9-5 on the season and move into first place in the CAA with a 3-0 record. George Mason drops to 10-4, 2-1 in CAA play.