Junior guard Ameen Tanksley posted a new career-high 30 points in the Pride’s 88-74 victory over Norfolk State on Tuesday evening. Tanksley was a perfect 9-9 from the floor, including a stellar 5-5 mark from behind the arc.
Over his last four games, Tanksley has been remarkably efficient with the deep ball, making 20 of 25 attempts from 3-point range. Tanksley had set his previous career high of 29 points nearly two years ago against Rider while playing in the MAAC as a member of the Niagara Purple Eagles.
“I knew from the beginning I was going to make a lot of shots today,” Tanksley said. “During shoot-around I was feeling good with myself. I focused and I was just telling myself if I get open looks, I’m going to make them.”
“Ameen’s line is just so efficient,” head coach Joe Mihalich added. He only took nine shots and got 30 points. Shooters that take good shots are going to make them, and he took good shots.”
Tanksley’s career night wasn’t the only performance worth noting. With a 3-pointer at the 8:28 mark of the first half, Dion Nesmith broke the 1,000 point barrier in his 100th career game. Nesmith, a sixth-year senior, has had a long and winding road throughout his college career spanning three different universities and two different sports. Nesmith finished the evening with 10 points, his fifth double-digit output of the season.
Though Hofstra and Norfolk State traded leads throughout the first half, the Pride were able to control the lead for much of the second frame. When the Spartans went on a 7-0 run to cut the Pride lead to just two, it was Brian Bernardi who stepped up to give the Pride some breathing room. In the space of one minute, Bernardi knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to expand Hofstra’s lead back to six.
“Whenever I can get an open look, I’m going to take it,” Bernardi said. “I always think I’m going to knock down that shot. I don’t mind taking a big shot like that and helping my team win.”
After Bernardi’s buckets brought Hofstra back from the brink, it was Juan’ya Green who stepped up to lead the Pride home. Green scored seven points and made three trips to the free throw line in the final 6:38 of regulation, successfully milking the clock while maintaining Hofstra’s lead. Green and Bernardi were the other two Pride players to finish in double figures, with 18 and 17 respectively. Green fell just short of a double-double with eight assists on the evening.
The Pride played Tuesday without the services of two front court pieces: senior Moussa Kone and freshman Rokas Gustys. Kone has been sidelined for most of the season with a leg injury and Gustys recently joined him on the bench with a similar condition. With junior forward Malik Nichols and freshman Andre Walker as the only legitimate inside defenders on the team, Norfolk State took advantage – specifically forward RaShid Gaston.
The 6’9″ junior led the Spartans with 28 points and 10 rebounds, earning his third straight double-double while shooting an efficient 12-15 from the field and playing all 40 minutes of game time. Teammates Jeff Short and Malik Thomas followed with 16 and 13 points, respectively.
Due to Gaston’s exceptional play, the Spartans out-rebounded the Pride 34-30 and outscored them in the paint 32-14. In what seemed like a repeat of Jameel Warney’s performance against the Pride when Hofstra and Stony Brook renewed their rivalry last month, it is clear that Mihalich’s squad needs reinforcements if they hope to fend off inside threats in the future.
“When a guy goes down you have to reinvent your team a little bit,” Mihalich said. “We had to play a different way. It’s going to be a major concern for us, but we’re going to just have to find a way to do it. It’s a great opportunity for Andre Walker. He’s been a nice surprise for us, so hopefully he’ll keep getting better. He’s getting a chance to learn on the job. I’m just proud of my team for playing a different way and still winning.”
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.