By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
For the second consecutive season the Hofstra University men's basketball team was ousted in the first round of the College Basketball season, this time at the hands of Evansville 77-70 on Tuesday night.
"A lot of credit goes to Evansville," said head coach Mo Cassara. "They did a great job on us defensively slowing us down a little bit and not letting us get into a real rhythm offensively."
Evansville began the game on a 7-0 run, while Hofstra started the game shooting 0-7 from the field.
Senior forward Greg Washington sparked Hofstra, scoring nine of the Pride's first 12 points.
"He made some big shots and he's a senior," said Cassara. "We need that to happen to win on the road."
Hofstra was able to answer back with a 7-0 run.
Senior guard Charles Jenkins scored point number 2,500 of his career, the sixty-third player in NCAA history to do so after a driving lay-up off the glass with seven minutes gone in the first half.
The Pride lost Washington's hot hand when the senior picked up his second foul of the game not even ten minutes into the ball game, forcing him to hit the bench.
Jenkins and junior guard Mike Moore were being shut down, but the Pride's offense was not having much trouble scoring, with eight different scorers making their way onto the score sheet in the first half.
Washington picked up his third foul with less than three minutes remaining in the half.
Hofstra was using some great ball movement to find the open man, showing no sign of slowing down despite the absence of Washington and the struggles of its two leading scorers.
The Pride went into the locker room up by two at 36-34. Washington led the Pride with nine points and Jenkins was held to just two in the first 20 minutes.
Jenkins started to get things going, scoring six consecutive points, extending Hofstra's lead to six in the first two minutes of the second half.
Evansville would not go away however, taking advantage of Hofstra turnovers and cutting into the Pride's lead.
Moore also added to the resurgence of Hofstra's big names with four straight points to re-open the Pride's lead to 49-43 with six minutes gone in the second.
Hofstra's front court continued to get into foul trouble. Nwaukoni picked up his fourth foul with just over six minutes gone and Imes had three going into the last 10 minutes of the game.
"It affected our defense big time," said Cassara. "With Dave and Greg in foul trouble we struggled to get through it tonight."
Every time the Pride seemed to have the opportunity to pull away, the Purple Aces would come right back and make things close.
A 9-0 run from Evansville gave the Indiana side a three point lead with eleven minutes remaining; it's first since the first half.
The second half became choppy with the referees whistle, although not always needed, stopped the game.
Hofstra could not get the ball into Jenkins' hands as much as was needed though the senior was knocking down his shots when given the opportunity.
Evansville managed to grab a six point lead as the Hofstra defense was unable to find a big stop to swing momentum.
A three-pointer from sophomore Yves Jules cut the Hofstra deficit to three with 6:53 left in the ball game but the defense still could not find an answer to Evansville's attack.
Jules hit another three-pointer only to have Evansville answer right back with a three of its own.
In the last 90 seconds of the game, Jenkins hit a driving lay-up cutting the deficit to two but Evansville answered yet again.
Jenkins committed a charge with 50 seconds left to give the ball to Evansville, which was up four.
The Purple Aces extended the lead to five at the free-throw line and after Jenkins was denied at the hoop, an offensive rebound by Washington, the lay-up and one to cut the game to two.
With 24.3 seconds left, one free-throw from Evansville put the Aces up three and on the ensuing possession, Moore put up a three-point attempt with 18 seconds left that went out of bounds, giving the ball back to the leaders.
"I was actually trying to call a timeout," said Cassara. "The referee was kind of out of position and we had an opportunity to tie the game or get a quick shot but Mike tried to get the foul a little quicker than he probably should have."
Evansville was able to ice the game at the free-throw line, ending the Pride's season and the Hofstra careers of guard Brad Kelleher, Washington and Jenkins.
"This was an incredibly special year," said Cassara. "I want to thank those guys for their heart and soul and what they've given to not only this program but to this University."
Jenkins finished with 14 points, Moore added 13 and Washington had 12 in the loss. The Pride ended the season with a 22-13 record.