Round two of the Battle of Long Island lived up to the hype. For the second year in a row, the rivalry game between Hofstra and Stony Brook came down to the final possession, and this time it was the Seawolves topping the Pride 71-68.
Hofstra, playing without point guard Juan’ya Green for most of the first half, carried a four point lead into halftime thanks to a defensive effort which held Stony Brook to just 0.85 points per possession in the first half. While the Pride were held to 0.97 PPP themselves in the first frame, it was a welcome result to bring a lead into the break without an impact from Green.
However, the wheels quickly fell off in the second half, as Stony Brook flipped those stats on their head and scored 1.29 PPP in the second half despite a full 20 minutes of Green on the floor. The Pride closed the gap to three with 15 seconds remaining but neither a jumper from Denton Koon nor an off-balance 3-pointer from Green could find the bottom of the net.
Here are three thoughts from Hofstra’s defeat at Stony Brook:
Juan’ya Green was a non-factor. You simply can’t take the main cog out of a well-oiled machine and expect it to perform to its same capability. For Hofstra, Green is the piece that makes everything run, and he was a complete non-factor in the first half.
Green may be one of the most talented point guards in the country, but his pinpoint passing was stuck on the bench for a majority of the first half. Green picked up two early fouls and played just three minutes in the first half, registering neither a point nor an assist in the frame.
“The guys sucked it up and did a good job but it would have been better to have Juan’ya Green on the floor for 37 minutes,” a dejected Joe Mihalich said after the game.
Green played the entirety of the second half, but struggled in his return to the court. The senior shot just 1-for-7 after the break, all from 3-point range, and registered just one assist against four turnovers. Despite playing 20 minutes in the second half, Green’s presence only raised Hofstra’s efficiency slightly.
The Pride scored 1.05 PPP after halftime, up from 0.97 PPP in the first half. With Green struggling, it fell on Ameen Tanksley and Brian Bernardi to carry the lion’s share of the scoring. Tanksley led all scorers with 23 points on the afternoon while Bernardi followed right behind with 22 of his own, and each contributed four 3-pointers.
The troubles Green faced Sunday afternoon portend a problem for the Pride. The simple truth is Mihalich’s squad is thin. Not in stature, but in numbers. Hofstra can shoot the ball with anyone, averaging 46% from the field and 39% from 3-point range this season, but they have often run the floor with fewer than eight players.
Hofstra used just seven players at Stony Brook, and that was with Green held on the bench for nearly the entirety of the first half. As mentioned, Green played just 23 minutes, but was on the court for the entirety of the second half.
Four of the Pride’s seven players played more than 30 minutes, including Rokas Gustys with 33, Koon with 37, Tanksley with 38, and Bernardi playing a full 40 minutes. Depth may become an issue for Hofstra throughout the season, let alone on back to back nights in March, but only time will tell how much of an issue it will be by then.
Rokas Gustys held his own against the monster that is Jameel Warney. Well, at least for the first half. It’s no easy task lining up against Warney, who averages a double-double (19.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg) for the Seawolves, who also happens to be one of the best players in the New York area.
As a sophomore playing against one of the most talented seniors in the region, Gustys gave a strong account of himself and helped deny Warney of a double-double Sunday, albeit by just one rebound. The 6’8” 255 lb Warney was held to six points and five rebounds in the first half, but sparked the Seawolves’ offensive outburst in the second half to finish with 22 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks.
Standing at 6’9” and 260 lbs, Gustys certainly sized up to Warney despite being two classes younger. Gustys finished the game with eight points and 13 rebounds. The Seawolves’ senior was complimentary of Gustys’ hard-nosed play in the paint afterward:
“I mean it was a wrestling match so it was a great competition,” Warney said of playing against Gustys. “He’s a strong guy, he pushed me off the block a little bit, and it’s just another challenge for me to find a way to help my team out.”
Taking on Warney may prove to be a key step in Gustys’ development as a top forward himself. The Lithuanian native has shown a steady improvement from his freshman season and has done well to avoid foul trouble this season while becoming a fixture in Hofstra’s front line.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.