HEMPSTEAD, NY – Senior guard Eric Maynor exploded for 21 of his game-high 33 points in the second half, erasing a double-digit Hofstra lead as the Pride dropped a 66-62 decision to CAA-rival Virginia Commonwealth University Saturday afternoon at the Mack Sports Complex.
Sophomore guard Charles Jenkins (Queens, NY) scored a team-high 22 points for the Pride and sophomore guard Nathanial Lester (Brooklyn, NY) finished in double-figures for the third straight game, chipping in 12 points. But it wasn’t enough to extend the Pride’s winning streak to five, as Hofstra fell to 14-8 and 6-5 in the CAA with the defeat.
Hofstra also lost for just the second time this season in games decided by five points or less, dropping to 9-2.
Maynor was the difference-maker, erasing a 58-all tie by scoring six straight points down the stretch to help the Rams improve to 16-6 and 9-2 in the conference. VCU entered the matinee just a game behind Northeastern for first place in the CAA.
Hofstra led by as many as 12 points before freshman guard Bradford Burgess (11 points) and Maynor, the reigning CAA Player of the Year, mounted the comeback. Burgess hit a three-pointer near the top of the key to tie it at 58 with 4:16 left.
VCU rode Maynor to a six-point lead after he hit a free throw, buried a three-pointer and added a jumper on the Rams subsequent trio of possessions, moving the Rams ahead 64-58 with 1:42 left. After making a free-throw, Maynor stole a pass-at midcourt and raced in for an uncontested lay-up to build the lead to three. On the other end of the floor, Maynor blocked Jenkins’s driving attempt and secured the win by hitting a deep three-pointer from the left wing make it 64-58.Jenkins added four free throws afterwards, but the Pride never got closer than 66-62 with a half-minute showing on the clock as it missed three shots in the final 20 seconds, including two three-pointers to try to cut the lead to one.
Maynor and Jenkins entered the contest as the conference’s top two scorers and served as their offense’s focal points. Fresh off a career-high 33 point-effort in a last-second win over UNC Wilmington, Jenkins notched his 10th 20-point game of the season, adding six rebounds and three assists.
VCU came out strong in the second half after the Pride led 36-29 at the break. Sophomore forward Larry Sanders scored back-to-back baskets in the paint, pulling the Rams to within 42-39 with 13:13 left. Jenkins responded with a three-pointer right in front of the Pride bench and Tony Dennison added a driving reverse lay-in on the next possession to build up the lead.
Maynor scored the game’s next seven points, hitting a top-of-the-key three-point near NBA range to tie it and followed a Pride turnover by drilling a jump shot to give VCU a 48-46 lead with 10:54 remaining, marking the first time the Rams led since the second minute of the contest.
Playing man defense, Jenkins held Maynor scoreless through the first 10 minutes before the country’s 11th-leading scorer heated up. Maynor was off from the floor in the first half (2-8) yet converted all seven of his free throws to tally 12 points at the break.
Jenkins’ jumper built a 28-16 lead with 5:20 left in the first half, Hofstra’s largest of the game. VCU posted a modest 5-0 run to close the gap before Hofstra started driving to the lane, converting on its last five foul shots. Maynor cut into the deficit before the buzzer, drawing a foul on junior guard Cornelius Vines (Syracuse, NY) from beyond the three-point arc. Maynor hit all three of his free throws with 2.2 seconds left, though the Pride still entered the break with a 36-29 edge.
Maynor has a chance to be selected in this year’s NBA draft. That would follow in the career path of former Pride great Craig “Speedy” Claxton, who had his No. 10 retired in a pregame ceremony. Claxton, currently with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, was drafted by Philadelphia in the first round of the 2000 draft after a stellar career for Hofstra.
Now 30 years old, the Hempstead native led his hometown school to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and still holds the team record for career assists (660), steals (288) and ranks sixth all-time in points (2,015).
Claxton, who won a championship ring with the Spurs in 2002-03, is the third Hofstra player to have his jersey retired this season. Claxton (1996-2000) joined Bill Thieben (1953-56) and Steve Nisenson (1962-65) in being honored with a banner hanging from the Mack Sports Complex’s rafters. Rich Laurel (1973-77) will join the list later this year.
Hofstra will be off the next two days before traveling to Virginia to take on another challenging conference opponent in George Mason Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.