By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
RICHMOND, VA.— The Hofstra University men's basketball team's hopes of a Colonial Athletic Associaton title fell short in the semi-finals, with the Pride falling to Old Dominion 77-69 on Sunday afternoon.
"Certainly a sad locker room for us," said head coach Mo Cassara. "I thought we hung in there and found a way to stay in the game. A lot of credit goes to Old Dominion. We didn't play our best basketball today but we played well enough to hang in there and we really fought and battled."
Hofstra was attacking the basket early, using some great ball movement to find senior center Greg Washington under the basket.
The Pride was hot from the field early with four of five starters scoring the team's first 11 points of the game.
Old Dominion had no problem answering however, as the teams were tied at 11 at the under 16 media timeout.
Senior guard Charles Jenkins was his usual superstar self and though he was not taking many shots, he was hitting most of them. What was going to the Pride's biggest nemesis of the day would be Old Dominion's size advantage and how Hofstra would deal with them on the boards.
Both teams had no problems trading baskets as some key passes and drives had each side picking apart the defense.
Hofstra was having trouble hitting its free throws, a stat that would have given them a somewhat healthy cushion with ten minutes gone in the first.
The Pride's shooting went cold as Old Dominion continued to make baskets, going on an 8-1 run to take a 25-21 lead with 7:36 remaining.
"We didn't shoot the ball well as we normally do," said Jenkins. "We missed a couple of free throws but we were still just a couple of possessions away from being in the game but we just couldn't capitalize on certain shots."
Dominion began to control the boards as Hofstra could not find an answer to the Monarchs' size.
A buzzer beating fade away from junior guard Trian Iliadis put Old Dominion up 41-34 going into the half-time break. Jenkins led the Pride with eight points, but the senior had to do more to get Hofstra back in the game.
"They did a good job of making me uncomfortable and getting into the lane," said Jenkins. "I put myself in a situation where I had to shoot over very high hands and it was a bit uncomfortable for me."
Old Dominion opened up a nine point lead to open the second half as Hofstra was in danger of being put away early.
With 16:34 left in the second, Washington picked up his fourth foul as Hofstra's big man had to yet again hit the bench. Freshman forward Stephen Nwaukoni was called into action to provide some defensive help.
The Monarchs' offense was not slowing down, opening up an 11 point lead with six minutes gone in the second, but the Pride looked to Jenkins to get things back to contention.
Two three-pointers from the CAA Player of the Year cut the deficit to six at 56-50, but the referees whistle and some key foul shooting had Old Dominion keeping its healthy lead.
Hofstra's hole hovered between seven and 11 points with time winding down to the four minute mark. The Pride offense could not keep up with Dominion's shooting and the defense could not make enough stops to get back into the game.
With 2:19 left in the game, the Monarchs held a 70-61 lead.
Washington picked up his fifth foul with 1:01 left in the game and ODU up 72-64.
"In the games that we've played real well Greg Washington's been able to stay on the court," said Cassara. "Their size bothered us tonight and they had a tremendous front line."
The Monarchs iced the game at the line and will take on VCU in the finals tomorrow night at 7 p.m.
Having five scorers in double figures was not enough for Hofstra, as Jenkins led the squad with 16 points, junior guard Mike Moore had 12, Washington had 11 and senior guard Brad Kelleher had 10.
"It's tough," said Jenkins. "I really wanted to bring this one home for the program. For us to fall short is kind of tough to deal with right now."
Hofstra drops to 21-11 on the year, but there is a very good chance that the Pride will be invited to some postseason tournament play in either the NIT or the CBI.
"I'm so proud of this team and the effort that they showed and the attitude and the fight," said Cassara. "It's a little bit of a bittersweet ending or sad ending to Charles and Greg and Brad's regular season but hopefully we'll have a chance to play a little bit more basketball."