A quick turnaround was just what the doctor ordered for Hofstra, who recovered from a narrow loss to Long Island rival Stony Brook over the weekend to defeat Florida Atlantic University 68-54 Tuesday evening.
“The alternative was what happened last week when we took it on the chin against Siena and had to wait 11 days to play,” head coach Joe Mihalich said, thinking back on his team’s last two games, both ending in losses. “That was a long 11 days.”
The Pride returned to their home court in Hempstead for the first time since the opening week of the season to close out play before their Christmas break. Hofstra (7-4) had played eight games on the road or at neutral locations since their 96-65 victory over Division II Molloy College on November 16.
That extended road trip included an appearance in the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands where the Pride earned their best win of the season over Florida State before falling by one point to Indiana State in the third place game.
“It’ll be good to get into some sort of pattern because in November and December, with 10 days for exams and that kind of stuff, it’s hard to fit all those games in there,” Mihalich said. “Sometimes you’re playing two games in three days like this, and sometimes it’s more of a regular pattern.”
Hofstra’s return home was sparked by senior forward Ameen Tanksley, who led all scorers with 20 points and added 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Tanksley, who leads the Pride’s high-powered offense with 17.5 ppg, showed improved toughness against an FAU front line featuring four forwards who rise over Tanksley’s 6’6” frame.
“When I go out there I don’t really look to score,” Tanksley said. “I just play through the offense, wait my turn, and take the best shot I can take. I was just desperate today. I needed the win. I wasn’t going home without the win.”
The Pride held a decided rebounding advantage overall despite FAU’s size advantage, ending the game with a 47-28 edge on the boards. Three Hofstra players pulled down double-digit rebounds, including Denton Koon who matched Tanksley with 11 rebounds, and Rokas Gustys who grabbed 10 boards for the sixth time this year.
“This game honors toughness,” Mihalich said. “We just got away from being tough for a couple of weeks. Earlier in the year we were a tough team, and when we’re tough we’re good.”
Juan’ya Green got back on track after a foul-plagued outing at Stony Brook, complementing Tanksley’s outing with 19 points of his own. The senior point guard added five rebounds and four assists.
Brian Bernardi’s shooting touch showed up once again. The junior rounded out the Pride’s scoring with 10 points, including a 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim and through the net, eliciting a shrug and a grin from the normally stoic guard.
After their extended hiatus, the Pride fall back into a friendly pattern and enjoy two more home games to end the calendar year. Hofstra hosts Sacred Heart following the Holiday weekend before closing 2015 with a contest against Delaware to open CAA play.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.