By PJ Potter — SPORTS EDITOR
The Opening Night jitters scattered all across the seats and onto the court at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex Friday night in a gritty 77-74 victory for the Hofstra men’s basketball team over Army.
“We were even tougher than some of the toughest people in America,” Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich said.
After 18 lead changes overall, the Pride led by one point with under one minute remaining in the battle.
The yells and chants of the 2,700 fans in attendance echoed throughout the arena after a shot beyond the arc went off the mark for Army’s Tommy Funk.
Joel Angus III reeled in his eighth board in his Hofstra debut and found Desure Buie for the pass. He was fouled and sent to the line for two nerve-rattling foul shots.
“I know my team needed me in the second half. I knew I had to step up,” Buie said.
He knocked down both attempts. Hofstra leads by three.
A foul by the Pride’s Justin Wright-Foreman sent Army to the charity stripe, netting each free throw for another one-point lead in favor of Hofstra.
The clock then read ten seconds and all Hofstra had to do was play keep away or get fouled. Buie caught the inbound pass and was quickly mauled, putting the pressure on him once again at the foul line. Without hesitation, he nailed the next two shots to seal the three-point victory.
“The star of the game might’ve been Desure tonight. The three he hit… [It was a] big three and [also] the foul shots. I don’t even think the net moved. That’s toughness right there. Tough kids make foul shots and they were trying to ice him [and] it didn’t matter,” Coach Mihalich said.
Prior to the free throws, Buie knocked down a wide open three-pointer on the right wing with just over three minutes left in the second half, giving the Pride a 73-68 lead at the time.
Buie finished the game with 12 points, all coming in the final 20 minutes.
Also coming in the clutch was Wright-Foreman, the only player to never leave the court for either team. The junior guard shot out of the gate with three buckets on his first four attempts, but struggled to find the basket on his next 10 shots, only hitting one.
Down the stretch, however, Wright-Foreman caught fire with eight minutes remaining to keep up with Army’s ability to answer with a score after allowing one defensively.
Wright-Foreman, who finished with 25 points to end the night, saw nine of them fall within a two and a half minute stretch, helping edge out the Black Knights by one in the final few minutes.
“Me, especially, needing to score the ball and being the go-to guy, I have to find ways just to get involved,” Wright-Foreman said.
Hofstra shot 40 percent from the floor, opposing Army’s 46 percent performance. The Pride was able to pull away victorious in great credit to foul shooting. Hofstra converted 19 free throws on 21 attempts compared to Army’s slim time at the line, going 6-11.
Leading the charge in that category was Angus III. The starting forward cashed in seven times on eight tries, totaling 13 points overall.
Pestering Hofstra all night was Matt Wilson. Wilson dropped 17 points on 8-9 shooting, including six rebounds.
“He [Wilson] is a terrific player…he’s very skilled, has soft hands [and] goes both ways. They run some good actions to get him the ball and he finished really well,” Coach Mihalich said.
Guarding him down low was either Rokas Gustys or Hunter Sabety. Fouling out with 1:09 left, Gustys corralled 12 boards and six points in his final Opening Night game. Sabety shot a perfect 3-3, giving him six points and six rebounds in 12 minutes.
“He [Sabety] is productive. He finds a way to score. He probably scores a little better than our other big guy,” Coach Mihalich said.
Hofstra is now 4-1 in season openers since Coach Mihalich took the helm and 8-5 all-time against Army.
The Pride returns to action Nov. 13 against Kennesaw State slated for a 7 p.m. start at home.