Hofstra ended 2015 on a high note, winning their CAA opener 90-80 over the University of Delaware Thursday afternoon. All eight Pride players scored, including every starter finishing in double-figures as Hofstra earned their first conference victory of the season.
The Pride carried a 43-40 lead into halftime, thanks to a 50% shooting performance in the first half. A 10-3 run in the first two minutes of the second half allowed the Pride to open up a 53-43 lead and take control over what had been a close affair despite Delaware holding the lead for less than three minutes in the game.
Here are three thoughts from Hofstra’s victory:
Forward Denton Koon had his best game in a Hofstra uniform. The graduate transfer from Princeton shot 50% from the floor on his way to 17 points. It was a season-high for Koon, and thus his best offensive game as a member of the Pride.
Koon brought the Mack Sports Complex to its feet midway through the first half with a running dunk that capped an 8-0 Hofstra run, giving the Pride a 30-21 lead at the time. In addition to his success around the basket, the talented forward flashed his versatility by knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.
“He’s such a versatile guy offensively,” head coach Joe Mihalich said of Koon. “He just does a lot of things. He’s someone who can really keep you honest when he has the ball. He can drive it, shoot it, or pass it, so it’s a triple-headed monster there.”
Koon has thrived in Mihalich’s system as a forward capable of hitting the outside shot. With all the other offensive threats on the court for Hofstra at any given time, opposing defenses can lose track of Koon at times.
“I just take opportunities as I get them,” Koon said of his offensive game. “Obviously they’re putting a lot of attention on Brian [Bernardi], Juan’ya [Green] and Ameen [Tanksley]. I kind of just feel the spots and make plays when they present themselves.”
The rest of the Hofstra offense had a pretty good game too. As mentioned, all eight players who saw action for the Pride knocked down a bucket. The unusual part about that isn’t even that every player scored – it’s that Mihalich’s squad often doesn’t even go eight deep.
“That’s the nature of our team,” Mihalich said, referring to the even spread of points amongst his group. “There’s no plan to get everyone involved. We have a lot of guys who can score and we’re a very unselfish team.”
It was the Pride’s first 90-point effort since their first two games of the season in which they scored 96 each time. It was the sixth time Hofstra reached 90 points in regulation in the Mihalich era, and their first 90-point effort against a conference opponent since the 2011-12 season.
Rokas Gustys provided another strong game in the paint despite being plagued with foul trouble for the second consecutive game. The sophomore forward poured in 13 points in 23 minutes, and fell one rebound shy of a double-double.
Juan’ya Green matched a career high with 11 assists, again spurring on the offensive game of fellow guards Tanksley and Bernardi. The Pride’s “Big 3” combined for 47 points, shooting 44% from behind the arc.
Hofstra got back on track before their next road trip. The Pride played eight games in a row away from home after a 2-0 start that included wins over Canisius and Division II Molloy. Thursday’s win over Delaware capped a three game home stand during which the Pride also earned victories over Florida Atlantic and Sacred Heart.
“You have to take care of your home court, and we did that,” Mihalich said. “We took care of business, and we feel good today.”
Prior to Hofstra’s return home, they dropped consecutive decisions at Siena and Stony Brook, failing to break the 70-point barrier in either game.
The Pride have a quick turnaround after the new year when they travel down to Maryland to take on Towson on January 2. Following that, they wrap up the three game road swing with their longest trip of the conference schedule to the Carolinas to take on the College of Charleston and Elon.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.