In a game that the Hofstra men’s basketball team needed to have, Eli Pemberton’s career-high 26 points just weren’t enough as the Pride came up just short against the Towson University Tigers, losing its sixth straight game by a final score of 86-80 Thursday night at the Mack Sports Complex.
“We had some fight, we fought to take the lead,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich after the loss. “We took some bad shots…and some of those bad shots turned into transition points.”
Pemberton, a freshman who has broken onto the CAA scene this season, hit clutch shot after clutch shot down the stretch, bringing the Pride back from an 11-point deficit with just eight minutes to go.
“It’s just about winning,” Pemberton said. “It was a good game today, but the job still isn’t done.”
Pemberton, whose 26 points was a game-high, seemed unable to miss as the clock ticked down the final few minutes, eventually putting the Pride ahead 73-72 with an offensive rebound and a layup, working in between the Tigers’ big men to grab a Rokas Gustys miss and put the Pride ahead with just under three minutes to play.
Unfortunately, a pair of free throws from Towson’s John Davis would give the Tigers back the lead, and Hofstra couldn’t keep up in the final two minutes, coming up with a few too many trips on the offensive end.
Pemberton picked up his fifth foul in the hopes of making Towson miss at the line, and the frustration on his face was evident as Towson proved to be unfazed by the high-pressure free throws.
The Tigers were perfect from the free-throw line in the second half, with many of their 13 made free throws serving to put the game on ice in the closing seconds.
“To their credit, they made plays down the stretch, and they made their free throws down the stretch,” Mihalich said.
While the Pride held most of the Towson starting lineup in check, it was the Tigers’ bench that dealt the most vicious blow, with 50 of the Tigers’ 86 points coming from reserves, while Hofstra had just four points from its own bench.
Leading the charge off the bench for Towson was a pair of Philly natives, Zane Martin and John Davis. The freshman Martin had 23 points, while Davis chipped in 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Tigers. Fellow reserve Jordan McNeil added 13 points to aid the Tigers in victory.
“They got chances, and they produced,” Mihalich said. “At the end of the day, it’s about producing.”
For the Pride, backing up Pemberton’s stellar performances were Deron Powers and Justin Wright-Foreman, two names that have been at the center of the Hofstra scoring attack since conference play began. Powers had 19 points, 13 in the first half, and six assists. Wright-Foreman had 18 points, while no one else on the Pride had more than Gustys’ eight points.
Early on, it seemed as if Hofstra was on the fast track to snapping its six-game losing skid, quickly gaining advantage in the first half, leading by as much as 16 points with under seven minutes to go in the first half.
A run from Towson was able to cut the deficit to just three points, but the Pride was able to boost the lead back up to eight points heading into halftime.
But Towson’s offense, which had been lackluster in the first half, simply caught fire in the second. At one point, the Tigers knocked down 11 consecutive field goals, taking a double-digit Hofstra lead and flipping it into a lead of their own.
The loss drops Hofstra to 9-11 on the season, with just a 1-6 mark in the CAA. Towson improves to 11-9, 3-4 in the conference.
It’ll be a short turnaround for Hofstra, as the Pride will hit the court on Saturday afternoon to take on the Northeastern University Huskies. Northeastern is one of two remaining CAA foes that Hofstra has yet to play, with the other being Drexel, before the schedule swings back through the rest of the conference.
After an inauspicious start to the conference slate, but with some encouraging performances against Towson and UNCW in the Pride’s last two times out, Mihalich has plenty to look forward to as the season continues.
“I think we’re really, really close,” Mihalich said. “I know being close isn’t good enough, but we’re really close.”
Tip-off for Hofstra’s matchup with Northeastern is set for 4 p.m. at the Mack Sports Complex.