Freshman forward Halil Kanacevic (6 points, 8 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench) then brought the crowd to its feet with a strong offensive rebound and a reverse layup, to put Hofstra ahead for the last time, 47-45, with 34.6 seconds remaining.
That set the stage for Brown’s late heroics.
An honest Coach Shaver, admitted that he didn’t call the winning offensive play himself.
“I’ll give Coach Holmes, one of our assistants, credit for that,” Shaver said. “He actually suggested the call to me. It just a ball screen action. [Junior forward] Marcus Kitts (11 points; 5-6 fg; 4 rebounds) set a great screen. Ken Brown is very good at coming off a ball screen, and either scoring or finding the open man. So we thought he would give us an option.”
And, it did, as Brown not only drove to the basket for the tying layup, but he made the ensuing game-winning free throw after he was fouled by Jenkins.
“It was a stupid play,” admitted Jenkins, Hofstra’s best player, and normally one of its smartest. “I have to be tough enough to get over the screen, and then when I got beat, the last thing I should have done was foul, or if foul, not let him get the ball to the basket.”
Pecora said of that play and of not dealing effectively enough with the Tribe’s screens in general, “Tough guys don’t get screened. We defend ball screens every day [in practice]. That’s just unacceptable.”
Hofstra still had one final chance, and a play was designed for Jenkins, who dribbled down to about eight seconds left before making his move into the lane, but stifling defense by the Tribe forced the ball out of Jenkins’ hands to Williams, and then to Kanacevic, who missed a right wing three-pointer.
“We talked in the huddle about driving the basketball,” Pecora said. “You don’t need to take a three when you’re down one. But, [Halil’s] a freshman. We [had] veterans on the floor that gave the ball up.”
Give credit to William & Mary for throwing Hofstra off on the play. “We made a change in our defensive approach that last possession,” Shaver said. “We ran an entirely new defense and we handled their ball screen entirely different than we had been, and I felt with that little time on the clock, we had to. We couldn’t give Jenkins space. Quinn McDowell switched off on him and Quinn’s 6-5 [listed at 6-6] and he’s got some size and can move a little bit, so it really worked well for us.”
A weak side rebound off of Kanacevic’s miss came to Lester, who appeared to have been fouled while trying to get off a shot with at least :00.1 left on the clock, but no foul was called as the final buzzer sounded.
Pecora ran across the court, yelling at the officials in the far corner, off of the court, near the doors where the officials were exiting to return to the officials’ dressing room.
Though he was heated at the time, Pecora, to his credit, later blamed his own team for the loss rather than pinning it on that last call with which he didn’t agree.
“I thought [one] official blew his whistle,” he said. “He raised his hand. And, then the other guy, he said, ‘No, no.’ But, why were they waiting on the court if that wasn’t the case? I don’t know. He blew the whistle to end the game, that’s what he said. I don’t believe that to be the case. [But,] that wasn’t the game, we lost the game. The officials didn’t lose the game.”
Lester also believed he was fouled with time on the clock, but likewise didn’t blame that play for the loss. “I felt some contact,” he said, “but the game shouldn’t have come down to that.”
Hofstra, which shot just 31.5 percent (17-51) from the floor (including only 5-for-21 from behind the arc) has usually pulled out close games late over the past two years.
“We’re not shooting the ball well,” Pecora said, “but we [usually] find ways to win games like these because we’ve made plays down the stretch.”
This time however, Pecora said William & Mary “Made two big plays late in the game, game-winning plays. We had the opportunity to do the same and we didn’t.”
Other than Lester’s eight free throw attempts, Jenkins was just 1-for-2 at the foul line, and no other Hofstra player attempted a free throw despite the Pride cleaning up the offensive glass often.
“We had 17 offensive rebounds and we only go to the line 10 times. They come into our gym and they go to the line 19 times (making 15),” Pecora said.
He added, “We wasted a great defensive effort… we missed a ton of layups… you can’t do that on this level. If you’re a Division I basketball player, you’ve got to make layups.”