By Kevin Carroll — SPORTS EDITOR
Down to the last few seconds and facing a fourth loss in five games, the Hofstra men’s basketball team stunned Monmouth University in the most improbable of fashions, as Jalen Ray drilled a three-pointer off of an intentionally-missed free throw with just two seconds remaining to give the Pride an 85-84 win on Wednesday night.
“It’s funny how those plays happen,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich after the game. “We got a lucky bounce but when you work hard, good things happen.”
The play in question was one straight out of a video game. After both teams battled tooth-and-nail down the stretch, Hofstra found itself struggling to stay alive after a late Monmouth run put the Hawks ahead as the clock dwindled down.
After a crucial missed free throw down Monmouth’s end, Justin Wright-Foreman found himself at the free-throw line with the Pride down 84-81, with just about five seconds remaining.
The sophomore calmly drained the first free throw, bumping him to a team-high 24 points. But without enough time for another possession, the second free throw wasn’t so simple.
The Pride opted to intentionally miss the free throw, hoping for a miracle. Wright-Foreman’s attempt was no good, but Stafford Trueheart was able to tip the ball out to the freshman Ray, who was waiting just beyond the three-point arc.
“It’s a situation that we run in practice, and it just translated to the game…it worked,” Wright-Foreman said.
“I knew I had to tip it out, and I just hoped that someone who could hit the three was out on the perimeter,” Trueheart added. “Luckily, I tipped it to the right person.”
Ray had come alive in the second half, hitting a couple three-pointers to keep Hofstra in the game during stretches where the Hawks threatened to pull away.
None of those shots, however, were as monumental as the last one Ray took, grabbing the tip from Truehart and knocking down a cold-blooded triple to make it an 85-84 Hofstra lead, seemingly right at the buzzer.
“I knew I had to get it off quick because they [Monmouth] were coming fast,” Ray said. “Luckily, it came to me and I hit the shot.”
The officials put two seconds back on the clock for Monmouth, but it was all for naught at the Pride came away with undoubtedly one of the most exciting wins in recent program history.
Ray finished the night with 14 points on 5-9 shooting, hitting four times from deep. Also scoring in double figures for the Pride were Eli Pemberton and Joel Angus III, with 17 points apiece.
Angus also had 11 boards and saw a lot time of time at center as the Pride were forced to play a lot of the second half without Rokas Gustys due to foul trouble.
Gustys’ presence was missed on the interior for most of the game, as Hofstra allowed the Hawks to shoot a staggering 58.6 percent from the floor, a number that most teams wouldn’t be able to overcome. That number was up to 63 percent heading into halftime as the Pride found themselves down 43-30.
“We couldn’t have been more listless in the first half,” Mihalich said.
But Hofstra’s smallball lineup, while not keeping the Hawks off the scoreboard in the second half, scored at an equally-furious pace, keeping pace with Monmouth for most of the half before finally stringing together a few stops and making a run.
With Angus playing center and Gustys on the bench, Mihalich turned to Trueheart for big minutes in the second half, and the sophomore delivered in a big way. Though only scoring four points, Trueheart had seven rebounds and had three key blocks on the defensive end late in the game.
Monmouth was led by Micah Seaborn, who came off the bench to drop 23 points on 9-13 shooting.
Hofstra will be back in New Jersey for Saturday night’s contest with Rider University, scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off.