By Angelo Brussich, Staff Writer
It was the smallest player on the floor providing the biggest punch. James Madison's 5'9" senior guard Humpty Hitchens provided the proverbial dagger through Hofstra hearts when he hit a jumper from 15 feet out to give JMU the lead with two seconds left to play. For the second straight home game Hofstra found itself needing a circus shot at the buzzer, but there was no miracle in the cards Saturday night as the Pride lost 62-60 Saturday evening at the Mack Sports Complex.
"We continue to be in every game. I'm really proud of that," said head coach Mo Cassara. "We have to learn to find a way to win…we've put ourselves in good situations we just haven't been able to complete some of those games at the end."
With teams trading baskets all night, it was apparent the team with the final possession would come away with the win. After a timeout with 30 seconds to play, Hofstra found itself down by two and Cassara was left with a choice. Either run the clock down and play for overtime or take the shot when it becomes available and try and create something on defense.
"We set up a play and I told Mike (Moore) if he can get to the basket get to the basket…that's a bit of a tough call…I think that was the right play" said Cassara.
"If he draws it up, I'm ready to execute," said senior guard Mike Moore.
Coming out of the timeout Hofstra began to execute its play quickly and Moore found a lane open up to the basket. He charged the net and made a difficult lay up to tie up the game at 60 with 26 seconds to try and execute a play for the win, or play conservative and take it to overtime. Hitchens walked the ball up the court as time was expiring, then he made the jumper and all but ended the game.
"We have to learn how to win…that's a skill and a talent that we have we just haven't been able to execute well enough yet," said Cassara. "We have to continue to get mentally tougher so when the game's on the line we can really think, really execute."
The first half of the game was truly the Mike Moore show, as the guard was able to put up 20 points. He was 7-11 on field goal attempts and 4-7 from behind the three-point line. Moore had more than half of the Pride's total points in the first half. It could have been 31-24 going into halftime had Hitchens not hit a 60 ft shot from behind the half court line as the buzzer went off to end the opening 20 minutes.
"I just want to go out there and play hard and get some wins," said Moore.
"Mike continues to do a lot of great things for us," said Cassara. "He knows he's going to have to continue to do those things for us to win."
Hofstra had been very strong around the boards so far this season, but this first half saw the Pride outrebounded by James Madison 22-13. It could not get much scoring going down low with only six points in the paint during the first half.
"First half we just did too much watching and allowed them to overpower and get rebounds," said junior forward Dave Imes. "Second half, coach told us if we want to win this game we have to switch that up."
The rebounding vastly improved allowing Hofstra to start the second half on a 12-5 run, going up 43-33 with 14:20 left in the game.
JMU then began to chip away at the lead until it was tied again at 50. The Pride electrified the crowd after a lightning fast transition up the court started off a rebound by Imes. He sent the ball half court to sophomore guard Shemiye McLendon who turned and sent a laser pass to freshman forward Moussa Kone who slammed the ball down for a powerful dunk causing the Mack crowd to explode with 3:52 left to play to go up 54-52.
"He (Kone) is getting better everyday," said Cassara. "He comes in with a great attitude and works hard every single day. I'm proud of his development and he's going to continue to get better."
Momentum seemed to be on Hofstra's side, but team's traded baskets until the final seconds.
"I'm proud of the way our team performed," said Cassara. "We were a little under manned, some injuries a bit of a short bench tonight and I thought our guys really battled."