The Hofstra Pride, trailed only by margins of 2-0 and 9-8 in the games first few minutes, led throughout by controlling the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights by holding them to barely over 30-percent shooting from the field, earning head coach Joe Mihalich his first victory as head coach by a 80-58 final at the Mack Sports Complex.
The Pride held the Knights to 30.2-percent from the field for the game and allowed just four of 26 on three-point field goal attempts. After dropping Friday’s opener against Monmouth and staring a match up with defending national champion Lousiville Tuesday, Mihalich knew a win Sunday would go a long way in his rebuilding effort of a program that went 7-25 last season.
“Failure was not an option today, that’s for sure,” Mihalich said facing road visits to Louisville and Richmond next. “It’s a good thing we were able to take care of business here.”
Hofstra traded baskets with the Knights early until the Pride went on a 9-2 run capped by Moussa Kone’s post up and spinning floater off the window to give Hofstra a 19-11 lead. The junior finished with his second straight double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Darren Payen, who entered the game for a brief minute early, came back in with 10:37 left and made the most of his opportunity. His post up floater off the window gave the Pride a 31-18 lead and he got hot from there, nailing a 17 footer, grabbing an offensive board off a free throw as well as throwing down a dunk off a pick and roll from Jordan Allen to put Hofstra up 15. Payen scored a career-high 12 points in the first half, making all six field goals he took.
“I’m so proud of them for being ready and doing such a great job,” Mihalich said of Payen as well as Adam Savion who contributed 2 points and 4 rebounds in 24 minutes. Savion filled the point guard spot for Zeke Upshaw who committed two quick fouls early.
The Pride would lead by as many as 23 late in the first half after back to back dunks by Jamall Robinson and Payen to stretch into a 50-27 halftime lead.
“We talked about going back to the drawing board,” Robinson said after scoring 8 points in his debut Friday. The freshman Robinson led all scorers with 15 points, showcasing his driving skills as well as his shooting ability.
However the Knights stormed back in the second half to cut the deficit to 63-47 with an 11-3 run which included eight points from freshman Malachi Nix. However, Kone did not allow the run to last with a jumper at the free throw line extended to put Hofstra up 68-47.
“It’s great,” Kone said to get their first win of the season. “We understand on Friday that we didn’t do what we had to do to win the game as we were supposed to but today. Winning the game is going to build our confidence up.”
Graduate transfer Upshaw drove the lane, threw up an unusual shot off the window and made a traditional three point play with 4:31 left. However, Upshaw landed hard on the ground and after a little under a minute, got up and sank a free throw to give the Pride a 20-point lead.
The Pride made 52.7-percent of their field goals and outr ebounded the Knights 42-39 on the day.
Ryan Restivo covers Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.