By Kevin Carroll — SPORTS EDITOR
Justin Wright-Foreman dropped a game-high 25 points, but it was barely enough to make a dent as the Hofstra men’s basketball team ran into a buzzsaw on Friday night in the form of the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats, who had five players in double-figures in a 95-71 rout at the Nassau Coliseum.
“They’re [Villanova] the number one team in the country for a reason,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich after the game.
The game marked the return to Hempstead of former Hofstra head coach Jay Wright, now in his 17th season at Villanova. Wright coached the Pride from 1994-2001, where he led the Pride to the NCAA Tournament twice. Wright had plenty of fond memories of his time at Hofstra, and spoke candidly about catching up with some familiar faces before the game.
“Coming back here, there’s just so many great feelings and emotions,” Wright said. “This is a great place.”
“Hofstra’s a special place to Jay Wright,” Mihalich added. “If he could have stayed at Hofstra for the rest of his life, I’m sure he would have died a happy man.”
Wright’s Wildcats more than lived up to their billing as the best team in the nation, completely controlling the game from start to finish with lights-out shooting and good defense. The Pride were able to make enough shots of their own to keep the game from getting out of hand, but couldn’t keep up with Villanova’s athleticism and shooting.
Wright-Foreman continued to have the hot hand for the Pride, scoring in double-figures for the 34th consecutive game. The junior shot 50 percent from the floor, and knocked down a trio of three-pointers to lead Hofstra.
After Wright-Foreman, Hofstra’s next leading scorer was Rokas Gustys, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. Eli Pemberton added nine points, six rebounds and five assists.
As a team, the Pride shot just under 48 percent from the floor, and 31 percent from deep. Against any other team, those numbers might have been good enough to keep Hofstra within striking distance, but the Wildcats hit a whopping 16 three-pointers, shooting 47 percent from deep.
“I don’t know if they have any weaknesses,” Mihalich said.
Hofstra also had 15 turnovers on the night, leading to 19 of Villanova’s 95 points.
“You can’t make mistakes against this team, and if you do they will make you pay,” Mihalich said. “That’s why they are the number one team in the country.”
Villanova had five different players score at least 14 points, led by Mikal Bridges with 20 points. Redshirt-freshman Omari Spellman had 19 and 10 rebounds, and Phil Booth added 17.
Three of Booth’s points came on a buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the first half after a costly turnover gave the Wildcats the ball with just under two seconds left. Donte DiVincenzo was the inbounder, and made a great read to find Booth at the three-point line for the bucket, putting Villanova up 52-31 heading into the break.
Hofstra drops to 7-5 with the loss, while Villanova improves to 12-0, one of just four undefeated teams left in the country.
“This game will make us better in the long run,” Mihalich said. “Now it’s time to do the most important thing, which is try to win our league.”
The Pride will now look ahead to Colonial Athletic Association play, with their conference opener coming up on Dec. 30 against the College of William & Mary down in Virginia.