Hofstra closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule with an impressive 84-64 cruise control victory over MAAC contender Siena Thursday night at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, NY.
Here are four thoughts from Hofstra’s win over the Saints:
Powering Through – Senior point guard Deron Powers broke through with perhaps his most commanding effort of the season against the Saints. The Hampton University transfer is using his final year of eligibility to facilitate Hofstra’s high-octane offense, becoming the bridge over which the Pride leave the Juan’ya Green years behind.
“He’s been fabulous,” head coach Joe Mihalich said of Powers. “It wasn’t just tonight. This is a combination of a lot of games. I’m going to point back to Florida. I thought Deron emerged right down there in Florida where he just showed the coaches and his teammates that this is his team. You’ve just got to give him the ball and let him run the team.”
Powers led five Pride players with a season-high 21 points Thursday night and matched his season-high in assists with eight against just one turnover. As the year has worn on, the senior has become more comfortable in his role at the point, drawing on practice experience against Green last season which often simulated real game conditions.
“I think even from day one, my team gave me the ball and said it’s my team and they were going to let me lead them,” Powers said. “I think it took me a couple of games for me to actually fill in to that role, but I think it came along good.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge Powers has faced down this season is the loss of backup point guard Desure Buie, a sophomore who projects as the heir-apparent of the facilitator role. Buie was lost for the season with a torn ACL and meniscus in his left leg, suffered during the Pride’s game at Columbia November 29. Since then, Hofstra’s reliance on Powers has been more critical than ever, and the senior has stepped up.
“Deron’s been more aggressive,” sophomore guard Justin Wright-Foreman said of the change in Powers since Buie’s injury. “He’s being the leader that we need.”
The 3-Point Problem – The Pride limited Siena to just 2-14 shooting from behind the arc, with both baskets courtesy of sophomore Nico Clareth in the second half. Clareth would end up leading the Saints with 16 points on the evening.
Long-range shooting has become an issue for the Saints of late. Over their last four contests, Siena has shot a dismal 17% from 3-point range including a 1-19 nightmare in a two-point loss at Rider earlier in the month. Outside of that four-game sample, the Saints were also held without a 3-pointer over nine attempts in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Thanksgiving eve.
Thursday’s continuation of their long-range malaise dropped the Saints’ season mark to 29.6% while opponents are shooting 34.5% from behind the arc. Last season, Siena connected on nearly 37% of their 3-point attempts while limiting opponents to 32.1%.
“I thought we were going to play well tonight,” head coach Jimmy Patsos lamented after the game. “They’re a good 3-point shooting team, we have to work on threes, but you have to move without the ball to get good threes. I just wanted to get the ball at the foul line, create twos, get them in foul trouble, and go from there. Sometimes you kick it out and you make threes and sometimes you don’t.”
Location, Location, Location – Thus far, Siena’s record has been defined solely upon each game’s location. With Thursday’s loss, the Saints drop to 4-8 on the season–perfect at home and without a win on the road.
Thus far, things just haven’t clicked for the Saints, who start four seniors and entering the season were largely projected as one of the top two teams in the MAAC. Siena’s quartet of starting seniors along with last year’s MAAC Sixth Player of the Year—sophomore Nico Clareth–each average double figures, but looking down the list Siena has lacked any other major production from the bench.
Next of the reserves is freshman Khalil Richard, who averages just 4.2 ppg entering Thursday. Fellow newcomer Ahsante Shivers, who earned his sixth start of the season against the Pride, has posted just 3.4 ppg.
Of seven reserves excluding Clareth to hit the court Thursday night, the Saints were beneficiaries of just five total points. If Siena is going to turn around this season, they will have to overcome their road woes as well as find an additional option off the bench.
Best Of Friends – Siena’s Jimmy Patsos and Hofstra’s Joe Mihalich have the distinction of being the two most successful MAAC head coaches in terms of regular season record.
In 15 years at the helm of Niagara University, Mihalich piloted the Purple Eagles to 164 wins, while Patsos has guided Loyola (MD) and Siena to 117 victories over thirteen seasons. The longtime rivals changed jobs within a week of each other in April 2013, but have kept their series going in their new homes.
“I thought first one to 80 would win,” Patsos said after Thursday’s loss. “We kind of used to have a joke, Joe and I, for the ten years we played, but [tonight] we didn’t score it.
The 64 points mark a season low for Siena, who have one more non-conference game remaining before resuming MAAC play with the Buffalo trip after the new year. The Saints will take on America East contender Vermont December 29, at home.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.