James Madison led for less than two minutes, but it was enough to pull off a shocking 69-63 comeback at Hofstra Saturday afternoon.
The Pride came out with a tremendous first half, scoring 45 points despite Dion Nesmith and Ameen Tanksley sitting on the bench with foul trouble. Thanks to a scoring rate of 1.32 points per possession, Hofstra took a 12 point lead into halftime.
A Juan’ya Green layup less than four minutes in maintained that lead for the Pride, and a few seconds later JMU’s leading scorer, Yohanny Dalembert (11.1 ppg), headed to the bench with his fourth foul. It looked like Hofstra would cruise to an easy victory.
But that’s why they play the game.
Despite Hofstra’s torrid start, they would not just slow down the rest of the way – they would come to a near standstill. The Pride shot just 5-25 from the floor the rest of the way and did not set foot on the free throw line in the final 18 minutes. Green, who has gone to the line as many as 17 times in a game this season, did not attempt a single free throw all game.
“We definitely didn’t drive the lane, especially to get guys open,” Green said. “I think we took a lot of jump shots. Sometimes we’ve just got to man up and try to get to the hole, try to create for yourself and get to the free throw line as much as possible.”
They scored a pitiful 0.55 PPP in the second half, lowering their overall mark to 0.94 PPP despite their sizzling first half.
While the shooting went cold, corralling rebounds also became a problem for the Pride in the second half. The Dukes out-rebounded Hofstra 27-18 in the last 20 minutes, with seven of them coming on the offensive end, one of which as the shot clock expired. Head coach Joe Mihalich could do little from the sidelines but implore his team to box out.
“We didn’t deserve to win,” Mihalich said. “We got outscored by 18 points in the second half, we weren’t tough enough on offense or defense. Sometimes it’s that simple.”
Despite Moussa Kone’s first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds, James Madison won the rebounding battle with a 42-36 advantage. The battle of the boards has become a good indicator of Hofstra’s success this season. The Pride are 9-1 when grabbing more rebounds than their opponent, but now just 5-6 when out-rebounded.
JMU’s Ron Curry followed a then-season high 21 point performance in the Dukes’ latest outing at Northeastern with a new career high 25 points against Hofstra including a 10-13 mark from the charity stripe. Though Curry carried the team, it was Dalembert who delivered the killing blow.
After sitting with his fourth foul early in the second half, Dalembert re-entered the game with just under three minutes to play. After Kone knotted the game at 63 entering the final two minutes, Dalembert answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play to give the Dukes a lead they would not relinquish.
Despite Hofstra’s shooting troubles, Green made four 3-pointers and led the team with 16 points while handing out seven assists. Sophomore Jamall Robinson added 10 points off the bench.
Things don’t get any easier for the Pride, who will travel to Virginia on Wednesday for a showdown against William & Mary, who moved into a first place tie in the CAA after a decisive 78-62 victory over Northeastern Saturday afternoon.
“We’ll see what we’re made of,” Mihalich said of the trip to William & Mary. “There’s two things you deal with in life: failure and success. You either go down there after some success or after you fail, so we’ll see how we deal with it.”
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.