Gradually, a bunch of disparate pieces are coming together for Mo Cassara as he attempts to hold Hofstra's fractured basketball program together through a difficult transition season. You could say the Pride (6-4) should have beaten outmanned Manhattan (2-9), but doing it on the road and turning a three-point lead with 7:30 left into a 20-point lead five minutes later on the way to a 71-58 win was impressive.
Okay, it was necessary for Charles Jenkins to take over down the stretch, scoring 10 of his 21 points in an 18-1 surge that pushed the lead to 71-51. It was a great night for Jenkins, who became the seventh Hofstra player to top 2,000 points, moving one point ahead of Speedy Claxton into sixth with 2,016 points.
But in Brad Kelleher's second game since making his long-awaited debut, the Aussie gunner came off the bench to score 14 first-half points and make four of six three-pointers. If he can do that, it will take pressure off Jenkins when Hofstra faces zone defenses as it did at Manhattan.
And Fordham transfer Mike Moore had his best game with 20 points and 10 rebounds. "The key is for Mike to get confidence, and for him to get 10 rebounds is key for us because we went small with four guards," Cassara said. "Having Kelleher lets us rest Charles."
Cassara noted that Hofstra improved to 3-0 in true road games, and it was the eighth time in 10 games the pride held its opponent to 63 points or less. "Of course, Charles continues to make big shots when the game gets tight," Cassara said. "But I believe our best basketball is ahead of us. It's a work in progress. We're seeing the benefit of these games."
Hofstra already won its Colonial Athletic Association opener against Towson, but after a home game against Holy Cross and a tough one on the road at Iona, the conference schedule will begin in earnest on Jan. 3 at Drexel. It looks as if Cassara and Hofstra are going to be ready.