On Saturday, Hofstra played arguably their best basketball of the year in an extremely valiant effort in a 83-76 loss at the hands of UNCW, the top seed in the CAA.
In a game in which Hofstra constantly saw the full-court press from the now 24-6 Seahawks, the Pride still managed to score more than 75 points for the 16th time this season.
Sunday was also the ninth consecutive 20+ point outing for Justin Wright-Foreman, who is absolutely on fire with his season scoring average up to 17.3 points per game. The sophomore stud also was a perfect 15-15 from the stripe in the ballgame. Junior center Rokas Gustys also was able to record his 10th double-double of the year with a solid 14 point and 12 rebound outing.
“I’m proud of our guys, I really am. That’s the best team in the conference right there and we had a chance to beat them,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich after the game.
In the post-game interview, when Wright-Foreman was asked if he believed that Hofstra leads the CAA in heartbreaking losses, he said, “That’s what it seems like, you know? First half we start off slow, then come back in the second half, unfortunately we just can’t finish.”
It is true, Hofstra has lost 11 games by ten or fewer points, and only trailed UNCW by two at the end of the first half en route to their first loss against them earlier this year.
While Wright-Foreman and Gustys did do most of the damage on Saturday evening, Eli Pemberton and Deron Powers also contributed a handful of momentum-building plays, and were also the unsung heroes due to one or both of them having to deal with the initial UNCW pressing right after they would make a basket. Powers and Pemberton combined for 32 points, four assists, and eight rebounds.
As the Pride were down by only a few late in the game, Pemberton put up a heavily contested fade away, and while still making contact with the defender, was able to still drain the and-one, a play in which the Hofstra crowd roared louder than many have heard this season.
As time winded down with around 20 seconds left, after Hofstra clawed their way back from a nine point deficit earlier, the Pride was down three, and after a blocked layup attempt by Wright-Foreman, the ball eventually would wind up in the hands of Brian Bernardi, but the shot from deep to tie couldn’t connect.
While the defense was strong on both sides at times, both teams played careless in certain aspects. Hofstra finished the contest with 12 turnovers, and UNCW would end up committing 25 fouls, having two players foul out before the game ended.
Gustys would also get into a bit of an argument with one of the Seahawks big men and Deron Powers also had a bit of a scare when he went down on the ground for a minute or two later into the game.
Though senior night did not go how many would have wanted it to, Powers and Brian Bernardi both have contributed nicely to the Pride offense this year. Even though Bernardi was only able to drop in three points on Saturday evening, he is averaging 12.4 PPG this year and is shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc.
As for Powers, the loss of star Juan’ya Green last year vaulted him into the consistent starting lineup this year, and having big shoes to fill no less. However, his 12.7 PPG to go along with 5.3 assists per game, and 79 percent free throw percentage, Powers has been a consistent playmaker for the Pride since the season began.
Hofstra sits at 13-16 right now (5-11 in CAA play), and the Pride will end the regular season on a two-game road swing, heading to William & Mary on Thursday, Feb. 23 before ending the season at James Madison on Feb. 25.