By Jordan Sawyer — STAFF WRITER
The Hofstra men’s basketball team broke into the conference win column on Tuesday night, holding off Northeastern University 71-70 in the Pride’s second Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) contest of the season.
On the anniversary of last season’s devastating 95-93 loss to William and Mary on an overtime prayer at the buzzer, deja vu crept in while the Pride held a 70-67 lead over Northeastern University with time running out.
With 1:09 left in the second half, Northeastern had a couple of chances to tie the game and play for overtime but both shots went astray.
With Hofstra preparing to inbound the ball, it appeared as though the Huskies were ready to foul the Pride for the third consecutive possession. However, stout defense from Northeastern’s Maxime Boursiquot turned into a Radovic turnover with 14 seconds on the clock.
The costly turnover turned into an open three point attempt from Shawn Occeus, who led Northeastern with 17 points on 3-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc prior to this last attempt. The shot clanged off the back iron as Justin Wright-Foreman corralled the rebound, just about icing the game with nine seconds to play.
The Huskies spent the rest of their timeouts and sent Eli Pemberton to the free throw line with two seconds remaining as Hofstra clenched onto a 70-67 lead. Pemberton put the icing on the well-deserved cake to give the Pride a four-point lead. Although he missed the second of two free throws, allowing for Northeastern to look for a game-tying four-point play in the last fraction of a second.
Coming off a timeout, Northeastern inbounded a half-court heave which led to a desperation shot from Occeus several feet beyond center court. Wright-Foreman, the nearest defender, knowingly avoided a potential foul defending the deprivation three-pointer, which swished as the buzzer sounded.
Hofstra had escaped the gritty and gory bloodshed with a 71-70 victory to earn their first CAA win of the season.
“Gutty win, it really was, we showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich after the game. “Our battle cry before was that we were going to have to want the game more, just play harder and be tougher.”
Early on it appeared as though Northeastern would be too tough to handle for the youth-laden Pride.
Less than four minutes into action, play was stopped due to some blood drawn from the finger of a Northeastern player resulting from Desure Buie’s breathless defense.
Midway through the first half Hofstra was trailing 23-11. Then freshman guard Jalen Ray checked in to help facilitate and get the ball to Wright-Foreman, the comeback catalyst. Wright-Foreman led an 11-0 run to bring Hofstra within one point of Northeastern’s 23-22 lead.
“It’s good that we had that run because if we didn’t it would’ve been an ugly loss,” Mihalich said.
The momentum shift led to chippy back-and-forth play between both benches as disruptive defense allowed for Hofstra to find easy buckets in transition.
The Pride took a 41-40 lead into the locker room behind Wright-Foreman’s 17 first half points after Occeus failed to beat the buzzer in a wide open lane following a Hofstra turnover.
Starter Joel Angus III finished the first half having uncharacteristically only played four minutes due to stellar support off the bench from Stafford Truehart, Hunter Sabety, Radovic, and Ray.
“I thought the bench won the game for us,” Mihalich said.
The second half picked up where the first left off. The largest margin of the half five as Northeastern held a 48-43 lead with a little over 16 minutes remaining after coming out of the locker room scorching hot and tallying the first six points.
Wright-Foreman continued to dazzle and dance all over the Huskies defense which allowed for him to post another 13 points in the second half. The lethal lefty finished with a game-high 27 points and fourth in the nation in scoring with 24.4 points per game.
Radovic played a big role off the bench with a game changing three-pointer with 8:04 left in regulation to give Hofstra a 58-55 lead. He followed with a put-back off a Wright-Foreman miss to make it just a one-point deficit three minutes later.
Rokas Gustys collected his 40th career double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds to move into fourth place all-time in rebounding in CAA history.
Pemberton added 13 points and five rebounds of his own to join Wright-Foreman and Gustys as the only double-digit scorers for the Pride.
Hofstra will continue conference play on Friday night, playing host to James Madison University at 7 p.m. It will be the Prides first game back at the Mack Sports Complex since Nov. 30.