By Zack Penn — STAFF WRITER
Hofstra men’s basketball improved to 3-0 Thursday night, opening the Charleston Classic with a 72-69 victory against the Dayton Flyers at TD Arena.
Sophomore dynamo Elijah Pemberton poured in a career high 27 points and Justin Wright-Foreman chipped in 19 as Hofstra held off a Dayton team that was easily their toughest competition so far in this young season.
Though Dayton outshot the Pride (44.3 percent to 37.3 percent), Hofstra got to the free throw line time and time again and shot 20-26 from the charity stripe while Dayton shot 9-14.
Although free throws may have ended up being the difference in the game, none were bigger than Rokas Gustys’ two makes with 1:40 left in the game to break a tie and give Hofstra a lead they would never relinquish.
“How about that. I’ll tell you what, (Rokas) didn’t flinch,” head coach Joe Mihalich said. “He acted like he does it all the time. And you know what, he’s never played better. He’s in a great frame of mind.”
Basketball is a game of runs and that was perfectly exemplified in this game, as Hofstra led 28-13 with seven minutes left in the first half before Dayton went on a 12-0 run to cut the deficit to 28-25.
Though the Pride led for almost the entirety of the game, Dayton nearly scratched and clawed their way to a comeback win when Darrell Davis sunk a free throw to put the Flyers ahead 69-68 with just 2:03 left to play.
Dayton would end up going scoreless thereafter as Hofstra clamped down on defense and sank four key free throws down the stretch.
The Flyers had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds, but Xeyrius Williams and Jalen Crutcher both missed three-point attempts. Joel Angus III corralled the final rebound, which sent the Pride into a frenzy while disappointing a crowd filled almost entirely with Dayton fans.
Hofstra’s offense looked solid for most of the contest with Pemberton and Wright-Foreman able to slice and dice their way through traffic, but towards the end of the game, the Pride relied heavily on getting to the free-throw line to pull out a victory.
While Dayton did not score a field goal in the last 2:44 seconds of the game, the Pride was held without a field goal for the last 6:13 of the contest after a Wright-Foreman jumper put the Pride ahead 64-58.
With the win, Hofstra will advance in the winner’s bracket to face Clemson (3-0) Friday night at 9:30 p.m., while Dayton (1-1) will join the loser’s bracket and face Ohio (1-1) on Friday at 7:00 p.m.