As far as college basketball games go, William & Mary’s 95-93 overtime win at Hofstra Monday afternoon was classic. As the next installment in this burgeoning rivalry, it was simply par for the course.
Daniel Dixon, famous as the man who buried Hofstra with 0.5 on the clock in the second overtime of a 92-91 CAA semifinal showdown in 2015, reprised his role as grim reaper, but this time left no time on the clock.
With just 1.2 remaining in overtime and his Tribe down by one, Dixon received the inbound pass well beyond the 3-point arc, yet delivered the killing blow from the edge of the Pride logo painted at the center of the Mack Sports Complex.
“It doesn’t matter who would have made that shot,” a dejected Joe Mihalich said after the game. “It would have been the same amount of heartbreak. If their tenth guy would have made it, it wouldn’t have made a difference to me. It wouldn’t hurt any more than it hurts right now.”
“I’ll have to digest it all and absorb it at some point, but I’m just really proud of how we fought,” William & Mary head coach Tony Shaver said later. “We haven’t competed all year the way we want to compete. I would have walked away feeling good tonight about our club regardless. Obviously it’s nice to see that shot go in, no question about that, but we competed the way we have to compete in this league tonight.”
Dixon’s heroics put the final nail in what had been a career game for Hofstra sophomore Justin Wright-Foreman, who set a new personal best with 30 points. Wright-Foreman had a chance to put the Pride up by three with ten seconds remaining, but missed a pair of free throws that would have given Hofstra enough cushion to survive Dixon’s strike.
The sophomore rebounded in quick order, committing a heads-up foul on Dixon as the Tribe searched for a final shot. That was just the Pride’s sixth team foul and forced William & Mary to inbound the ball one final time with little over a second remaining, but Dixon’s heroics transcended all late-game strategy.
Wright-Foreman, who has become a lightning bolt off the bench for the Pride, recorded 18 of his 30 points after halftime. While six came in the overtime period, it was the seventh time this season the sophomore has tallied double figures after the half.
“Believe it or not, this doesn’t surprise me,” Mihalich said of Wright-Foreman’s production this season. “It probably doesn’t surprise anyone in that locker room. That’s how he can score. Take this as a compliment to Justin, I thought it would have happened sooner. He’s just an incredible scorer.”
Monday’s outburst raised Wright-Foreman’s season average to 12.3 ppg, continuing a mammoth increase from his freshman year production. Last season, the sophomore tallied just 44 total points all year, averaging 1.6 ppg.
Dixon paced four Tribe players in double figures with 25, his fourth game this season above the 20-point mark. Fellow senior Omar Prewitt filled the sheet with 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists while freshman Justin Pierce added 10. Redshirt junior David Cohn notched his second career double-double on 11 points and 12 assists, a new career high.
Senior guard Brian Bernardi returned from an illness that held him out of Hofstra’s 58-56 win at Delaware on New Year’s Eve and poured in 18 points, putting him over the 1,000 point mark during his tenure at Hofstra. Bernardi, who played his freshman season at Southern Methodist University, is the 34th Hofstra player to reach the scoring plateau.
Point guard Deron Powers continued to excel in his position as facilitator, handing out seven assists to go along with 17 points. Meanwhile, junior forward Rokas Gustys tallied his sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
William & Mary and Hofstra represent two of the most potent offensive attacks not just in the CAA, but on a national level. Entering Monday, the Tribe ranked second in the CAA and 63rd nationally with 79.6 points per game while Hofstra sat a close third in the league and 73rd nationally with 79.2 ppg.
The expected meeting of explosive offenses came to full fruition, as both teams finished with 1.15 points per possession with 163 total possessions over the full 45 minutes.
“Both teams were incredible offensively tonight,” Shaver added, as he went on to praise the Pride’s firepower. “Honestly I think this Hofstra team, offensively – and it shocks me to say this – is as good if not better than their team last year. That’s hard to say, because they lost some great players, but they can really score the ball.”
Hofstra will look to rebound in short order as they play host to James Madison Thursday evening. The Dukes, who began the season 1-11, have won their last three games including conference wins over Drexel and Towson.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.