Hofstra’s six-game losing streak was finally snapped in thrilling fashion on Saturday evening, as Justin Wright-Foreman exploded for 30 points, and the Pride was able to hold off Northeastern University 78-73 in front of a large crowd at the Mack Sports Complex.
“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich after the win. “Going through those tough times is the reason we ton today.”
Wright-Foreman’s scoring total matched his career-best, set back against William & Mary on Jan. 2. The sophomore hit big shot after big shot down the stretch to keep the Huskies at bay, after a 16-point Pride lead evaporated over the last 10 minutes of the second half.
After a pair of free throws from NU’s T.J. Williams made it a one-possession game for the first time since early in the first half, Wright-Foreman came down the floor and buried a jumper right in the eye of the Huskies’ Alex Murphy.
It was near-perfect defense by Murphy, but it didn’t matter to the sophomore from Queens, who nailed the shot to extend Hofstra’s lead back to two possessions, 73-68 with just a minute left.
Northeastern had an answer on the other end in the form of a three-pointer from Shawn Occeus, cutting the lead to just two points.
But the Pride, searching for its first win since New Year’s Eve, had one more play left in the tank. Point guard Deron Powers, who had been relatively quiet all game, dribbled out the shot clock, then flashed through the lane, getting a tough layup to fall and drawing the foul in the process.
“I came off a screen and saw that the lane opened up, and I just took it,” Powers said. “Nobody was in front of me, so I just took it to the basket.”
Powers knocked down the free throw, and just like that, Hofstra’s lead was back up to 75-71 with only 17 seconds to play.
The Huskies would get their own and-one opportunity with time dwindling, as Murphy hit a layup while being fouled. His attempt to miss at the free throw line resulted in a Hofstra rebound, and Eli Pemberton would hit two free throws with a single second left to ice the game for the Pride.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Mihalich said. “We do this to win, and that’s why you play the games.”
Wright-Foreman shot 11-15 from the field, and knocked down four three-pointers. After starting the season on the bench, he has been stellar since entering the starting lineup earlier this season. Wright-Foreman’s been the most efficient player on offense for Hofstra; he hasn’t shot less than 40 percent from the field since the Pride’s win over Florida Atlantic, on Dec. 3.
Backing him up today was a resurgent performance from Brian Bernardi. The senior sharpshooter was an early presence on the statsheet for the Pride, knocking down three three-pointers to help build Hofstra’s lead, which was 41-32 heading into halftime.
Bernardi would tack on another deep ball in the second half, to finish with 14 points. After having somewhat of an up-and-down season, the senior was visibly fired up on Saturday, hitting some big shots when his team needed them most.
“We just remind Brian to relax and play basketball, because that’s what he does,” Mihalich said.
Hofstra improved to 10-11 on the season, with a 2-6 mark in the CAA.
For the Huskies, it was senior guard T.J. Williams who dealt most of the damage, finishing with 25 points. However, he also had five turnovers, as the Hofstra defense kept him frustrated for stretches of the contest.
Northeastern would drop to 5-3 in the conference, 12-8 overall.
Next up for the Pride is a trip to Philly to take on Drexel University on Thursday, Jan. 25. The Dragons are having similar struggles in the CAA, with just a 1-6 mark in the conference.
Tip-off for that contest is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday.