By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
After an eight hour bus ride down to Virginia, the Hofstra University men's basketball team came out flat in an 82-67 loss to Virginia Commonwealth University with first place up for grabs in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Hofstra was held scoreless for the first two and a half minutes of the game with some early shaking up the Pride. VCU's shooting however showed up late to the game, certifying a close start.
The transformed into a track meet with some end to end action giving fans whiplash as teams moved the ball real well and baskets were plentiful.
After a solid three minutes of play, the Pride offense began to get sloppy once again, turning the ball over, allowing VCU to grab a 14-10 lead at the under 16 minute media timeout in the first half.
VCU's full court press on defense posed problems for Hofstra, but did not completely disrupt its game as the Pride managed to keep things close with senior guard Charles Jenkins scoring seven early points in the game's first 10 minutes.
Hofstra's 2-3 zone was leaving VCU shooters open from three-point range, if there was a rebound up for grab, the Rams did a great job crashing the offensive boards and picking up second chance points, a huge reason why they led 29-20 with seven and a half minutes remaining in the first.
Towards the end of the half, it seemed Hofstra's plan was to put the team on Jenkins' back and try and keep things close going into halftime as the senior scored eight consecutive points, but VCU continued to pick apart the Hofstra defense.
VCU broke things open with just under four minutes left in the half as the ball did not find Jenkins' hands on offense, resulting in some bad shots and some fast break points for the Rams who opened up a 43-29 lead.
Hofstra shifted to man to man defense with two and a half minutes remaining in the half, which momentarily stopped the bleeding and a 13-1 VCU run, but were in quite the hole down 15 points going into halftime with the score at 48-33. Jenkins had 15 of Hofstra's 33 while VCU's senior forward Jamie Skeen had 13 of his own.
It was more of the same in the beginning of the second half, whenever Hofstra could find a way to create a small run, VCU was able to answer right back and keep a healthy advantage.
It was not only the offensive execution by VCU that was killing the Pride, but foul trouble also created a huge problem. Senior center Greg Washington, who was Hofstra's second leading scorer in the game and the Pride's main source of power under the basket, picked up his fourth foul with 4:15 gone in the second half with VCU leading 58-42.
Any chance for a Hofstra comeback was stalling with VCU's domination of the offensive rebounds as second chance points continued to hurt the Pride and the clock not on its side.
VCU kept Jenkins under careful watch as the nation's fourth leading scorer grabbed his first two points of the half with eight and a half minutes gone in the second. The Rams hot shooting from the field did not help Hofstra's chances anyway and after a turnover, VCU extended its lead to 19 points at 71-52 with nine and a half minutes left.
There was a moment of chaos for VCU as Skeen fell to the ground after a made free throw from sophomore guard Yves Jules, clutching his right knee and leaving the game with nine minutes remaining.
The loss of their star did not affect the Rams, opening up the lead to 22 with just under seven minutes left in the game as Hofstra just could not find a defensive answer for the VCU offense.
Hofstra tried to battle back, but an 11-5 run did not do a thing to make things competitive as VCU was content to run the clock out and take sole possession of first place in the conference.
Jenkins led all scorers with 20 points and Washington added 15. Despite sitting out for the last nine minutes of the game, Skeen still recorded 18 points on the night. The Pride drops to 14-7 overall and 8-2 in conference play while VCU improves to 17-5 overall and 9-1 in conference.