HEMPSTEAD, NY – The Hofstra Men’s Basketball program (14-7, 6-4 CAA) will look to continue its recent late-game magic when it hosts a key CAA game against preseason favorite Virginia Commonwealth (15-6, 8-2 CAA) on Saturday at 12 noon.
The game will be sponsored by State Farm and will feature a pre-game ceremony to retire the jersey number (10) of former guard Craig “Speedy” Claxton, who played at Hofstra from 1996-2000. Claxton is one of only six players in school history to score 2,000 career points (2,015) and is the program’s all-time leader in both assists (660) and steals (288) and was a two-time Player of the Year selection in the America East Conference (1998, 2000). He was also named the 2000 winner of the Haggerty Award, given to the top player in the Metropolitan New York area, after leading Hofstra to an America East Conference championship and its first NCAA Division I tournament berth in 23 years.
Hofstra is riding a four-game winning streak in which it used plenty of late-game heroics to pull out some dramatic victories. The Pride has trailed in the final minute in three of those four wins, and has used baskets in the final two seconds to win each of the last two contests. On Saturday, sophomore guard Charles Jenkins (Queens. NY) went coast-to-coast to score with 1.9 seconds left and give the Pride a 69-68 win over James Madison. On Wednesday, with the score tied, junior guard Tony Dennison (Long Island City, NY) stepped in and stole a pass in the closing seconds, and senior forward Arminas Urbutis (Kaunas, Lithuania) scored on a put-back at the buzzer to give Hofstra an 80-78 win.
The streak started on Jan. 17, when Hofstra trailed by one against Northeastern with a minute to play, before Jenkins forced Huskies guard Matt Janning into a wild miss, then made two foul shots to put the Pride ahead to stay as it captured a 57-52 victory. It remains Northeastern’s only conference loss this season, as the Huskies took over sole possession of first place at 9-1 with a win at VCU on Tuesday, which dropped the Rams to 15-6 overall and 8-2 in conference play.
Overall this season, Hofstra is 9-1 in games decided by five points or less, including five wins in which it trailed in the final minute (the Pride’s first two wins of the year over Western Michigan and East Tennessee State also came after Hofstra trailed in the last minute of play). Jenkins put Hofstra to stay in the first four of them, as well as breaking a tie with 1:19 to play in a win over Manhattan on Nov. 29, and tied the game against UNC Wilmington with a foul shot with 34 seconds to go before Urbutis scored the winning points at the buzzer.
One of the other storyline for the Pride in the last week has been the emergence of sophomore guard Nathaniel Lester (Brooklyn, NY) as a secondary scoring option to Jenkins. Lester had a season-high 11 points in the win over James Madison on Saturday, then passed that with 18 points in Wednesday’s win over UNC Wilmington (his double-team of point guard Chad Tomko also helped produce the turnover that led to the game-winner).
Hofstra and VCU met earlier this season in Richmond, with the Rams coming away with a 68-60 win on its home floor. Senior guard Eric Maynor, the defending CAA Player of the Year, led the way for VCU with 21 points, while Larry Sanders added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
The Rams were the preseason favorites to win the CAA after back-to-back regular season titles in each of the last two years. Everything revolves around Maynor, who averages a CAA-best 22.7 points and 6.0 assists per game. Sanders averages 10.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and a CAA-best 2.7 blocks, while sophomore guard Joey Rodriguez is also in double figures at 10.3 points per game. The Rams’ primary weakness is depth as only eight players are in their current rotation.