Today we’ll assess the performances of Hofstra, Towson, and George Mason in their respective preseason tournaments.
The Hofstra Pride cleaned up on the competition in the subregional of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Wounded Warrior Project, finishing the weekend with a perfect 3-0 record.
Hofstra vs. South Dakota State (11/16) Hofstra wins 66-63
-What a way to notch your first win of the year! Hofstra’s home opener Friday night against 2012 NCAA Tournament participant South Dakota State was a thriller. The Pride notched their first win of the year after Shaquille Stokes drilled a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining for a 66-63 victory.
-Sophomore guard Taran Buie chipped in 14 points in his first game for the Pride, while senior guard Steve Mejia added 14 points and seven rebounds of his own. The Jackrabbits star guard Nate Wolters did not disappoint, as he led both teams with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Stokes’ 3-pointer with three seconds remaining sent the Hofstra faithful into pandemonium.
Hofstra vs. District of Columbia (11/17) Hofstra wins 74-59
-Hofstra enjoyed their most emphatic victory of the weekend over the District of Columbia. Junior forward Stephen Nwaukoni celebrated his birthday in style, leading the Pride with 13 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes of playing time. A whopping six players scored in double figures for the Pride, and the balanced attack was too much for the District of Columbia. Hofstra won the rebounding battle in convincing fashion (47-31).
Hofstra vs. Marshall (11/18) Hofstra wins 103-100 (2OT)
-The 103-100 double-OT victory over the Marshall Thundering Herd was the icing on the cake. The Pride overcame a triple-double from Marshall’s stud guard DeAndre Kane (33 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists). Stokes led the Pride with 26 points despite shooting just 25% from the field (all 5 of his FGs were 3-pointers).
-Senior guard Steve Mejia set a career-high with 22 points en route to Tournament MVP honors. Forwards Jimmy Hall and Moussa Kone both recorded double-doubles, scoring 16 and 14 points, and grabbing 14 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
This was a huge weekend for Coach Mo Cassara and his squad, as they notched three straight wins after consecutive blowout losses to start the season, and improved to 3-2 on the season. The last three games have made it apparent that the addition of Buie (the Penn State transfer who became eligible after his 2-game suspension) is paying huge dividends.
The trio of Mejia, Stokes and Buie has a chance to be one of the better backcourts in the CAA. The Pride should be even more formidable when UConn-transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel is healthy enough to take the court. The freshman Hall continues to impress, as he averaged 12 points and 10.3 rebounds en route to CAA Rookie of the Week honors.
Hofstra returns to action tonight, Wednesday, November 21st against in a cross-town matchup with the Manhattan Jaspers.
Towson entered the 2012 Comfort Suites Invitational this past weekend at 0-1, after dropping their season opener to College of Charleston. The Tigers had the daunting task of playing four games in four days, and they muscled their way to three wins, leaving the state of Kentucky with a 3-2 record.
Towson vs. Radford (11/16) Towson wins 75-67
-Radford led 22-17 with five minutes to play in the first half before Towson made a 30-10 run that spanned to the second media timeout of the second half. The Tigers held the Highlanders to just 2-for-12 from behind the arch and only 29.6% from the field in the first half.
-Towson started the second half with a 7-0 run that all but sealed the victory for the Tigers. They shot an outstanding 60% from the field in the second half and pushed their lead to as many as 19 before winning the game 75-67. The duo of Marcus Damas and Benimon notched 21 and 19 points, respectively. The Tigers won the rebounding battle 45-27, with from senior forward Bilal Dixon.
Towson vs. Eastern Kentucky (11/17) Towson loses 70-69 (OT)
-The Tigers were an overtime loss away from leaving Kentucky with a 4-0 record. After multiple ties and lead changes in the first half, Eastern Kentucky went to the break up by six. Towson’s halftime deficit can be attributed to its poor play around the rim. The Tigers were outscored in the paint 16-10 and had only five second-chance points, compared to Eastern Kentucky’s 12.
-The Tigers were down by as many as ten in the second half, but clawed their way back to take a brief one-point advantage. Eastern Kentucky regained the lead and went up by two points with just over a minute to go in the game. Towson’s Mike Burwell, a South Florida transfer, was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 23 seconds left to go. He missed the first free throw, but with ice water in his veins, buried the next two to send the game to overtime.
-In overtime, the teams exchanged numerous leads. With 1.4 seconds remaining, Towson fouled Eastern Kentucky’s Deverin Muff who knocked down both free throws and put Towson on the losing end of a 71-69 game. The loss was especially tough to stomach considering Towson shot better from the field (44.9% to 39.1%), won the rebounding differential (43-30) and outscored Eastern Kentucky by seven at the foul line. Rafriel Guthrie led the Tigers with 16 points, and Jerrelle Benimon had 12 points and 16 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Towson vs. Kennesaw State (11/18) Towson wins 69-63
-The Tigers dominated early in their victory over the Owls. Towson jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game; a lead they would never relinquish. The Tigers held their largest lead of the game when they went up 36-21 going into halftime. Towson shot 48.1% from the field while managing to hold the Owls to just 29.2%.
- In the second half the Owls attempted, unsuccessfully, to catch the Tigers. The Owls came within four points but that was the closest they would get. The Tigers pushed the lead back to double-digits late in the second half before securing a 69-63 victory. Towson had four players in double figure scoring, including Benimon, who tallied his second double-double in as many days with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Towson vs. Cincinnati Christian (11/19) Towson wins 79-40
-Towson enjoyed its most decisive victory since 1992 in the tournament finale, when they defeated Cincinnati Christian 79-40. The Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first few minutes of the game and the Cincinnati Christian Eagles never held a lead. This marked the second straight game that the Tigers led the game from start to finish. Towson kept the pedal to the medal and went up 39-19 at halftime thanks to a superb 59.3% shooting from the field. The Tigers led by as many as 42. The Tigers large victory had four different players in double figure scoring. Dixon posted 10 points and 11 rebounds while Burwell, Damas and Kris Walden posted 18, 12 and 10 points respectively.
Towson’s 3-2 overall start is the team’s best five-game start since the 2008-2009 season when it also started 3-2. Towson accumulated impressive statistics during its trip to Richmond, Kentucky. The Tigers shot 49.5% for the invitational while holding their opponents to just 36.1% from the field. Towson out-rebounded their opponents 167-107 during the four games, and at least one player recorded a double-double in each of the final three games of the tournament.
Benimon, the Georgetown transfer, averaged 14.5 points and 11 rebounds in Towson’s four games. His strong played garnered him co-CAA player of the Week honors (with Hofstra’s Stokes) and was a first-team selection to the All-Invitational team.
Towson will look to keep the hot hand and inside presence as they play their next game Monday, November 26th at cross-town rival Loyola (Md.) University.
George Mason’s role in the Paradise Jam tournament encompassed two full hours of basketball, so some quick hits here might be easiest. Here we go:
Mason vs Mercer (11/16). Mason wins 52-49.
-Mason actually trailed at halftime, but shot over 75% from the field in the second half. They won 52-49. It seems like you should win by more than three points with numbers like that, but the Patriots also turned the ball over 19 times. I’m not a basketball coach, but I’ve heard that’s pretty bad.
-Sherrod Wright continues to be a leader for this team. Johnny Williams probably had the best game statistically, posting his first career double-double at Mason with a team-high 16 points and 10 boards. But Wright scored 12 points in the second half, including two free throws with under two minutes to go that put GMU ahead for good.
Mason vs New Mexico (11/18) Mason loses 70-69.
-Welcome back to the party, Erik Copes! Copes returned to the starting lineup after he sat in timeout for the first three games of the season by Coach Hewitt. The result? Even in a loss, there was a subtle uptick in the number of rebounds the Patriots pulled down over the course of the game. Mason was able to establish more of a presence on the inside at times, and even though the 6’8” Copes only pulled down four rebounds, the team as a whole eclipsed 30 rebounds for the first time in a game all season. His return was positively correlated to the increased rebounding effort.
-Sherrod Wright had another solid night, dropping 22 and grabbing four offensive rebounds. Typically, Wright is going to get his, but when we can contribute in the rebounding game, it makes this team a lot more dangerous.
-The ending to this game was absurd. They should actually adopt it as an alternate ending for the 30th anniversary edition of Hoosiers, available on Blu-Ray and DVD combo pack in March 2016. Mason led 69-64 with 17.7 seconds left after Wright sank another pair of late free throws. But Lobos junior guard Kendall Williams hit a ridiculous 28-foot 3-pointer with about ten seconds to go, and then stole George Mason’s inbound pass. After some equally crazy ball movement, Cleveland Thomas fed New Mexico’s Tony Snell, who notched the final three points of his game-high 27 with two seconds to go. The Lobos escaped with a HIGHLY improbable win.
Mason vs Quinnipiac (11/19) Mason wins 74-58.
-This became the third place game after UNM edged GMU and Connecticut downed Quinnipiac. So while the Lobos rode another wild, last-second comeback effort to the Paradise Jam title, the Patriots were taking out their frustrations on the poor Bobcats.
-It was a classic team effort in a blowout victory. Wright led the team in points and minutes, no surprises there, but nobody else played more than 30. Everyone got in the action, with eight different players recording at least five points.
-This game was a microcosm of what George Mason looks like it might have this year. Lots of high-end potential, high shooting percentages from the field (51% from the field), and trouble rebounding the ball (QU outrebounded GMU 33-27).
George Mason will likely walk away from the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands feeling they could have won the tournament. It was nice to see Mason win the rebounding battle in 2-of-3 games, and that should continue with the return of Copes. Still, you can only complain so much after a trip to the Caribbean and a podium finish in late November.
Mason returns to action on Saturday, November 24th when they play host to the Terriers of Boston U.