Hofstra saw a 16 point first half lead evaporate as the Pride fell to CAA rival Towson 86-80 Thursday night at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, NY. The loss is Hofstra’s sixth in a row as they fell to 1-6 in league play.
The Pride appeared locked into cruise control as Deron Powers’ layup with 6:46 remaining in the first half capped a 21-8 Hofstra run and had the Pride doubling up Towson 32-16. From that point on, the Tigers fought back with a 13-0 run to claw within three before the Pride restored order with an Eli Pemberton 3-pointer which kicked off an 8-3 Hofstra run to close the half.
While the Pride took a 40-32 lead into the break, the wheels soon began to teeter.
Towson opened the second stanza on a 25-10 run, seizing control on a John Davis layup with 11:58 remaining and pushing their lead to seven after a pair of 3-pointers a minute later. The Tigers extended their lead to its largest point of the night at 11 with 8:37 remaining, but with all hope seemingly faded, the Pride began to fight back.
Hofstra responded with a 19-6 run of their own, punctuated by a Pemberton layup to regain the lead at 73-72 with 2:59 remaining.
However, the Tigers’ nearly-perfect night from the free throw line helped them fend off the Pride late. Towson quickly regained the lead and closed the game on a 14-7 run including 12 from the charity stripe down the stretch. All told, Towson finished the night 21-22 from the free throw line.
Despite the blown lead and dismal conference record, the Hofstra staff remained optimistic as the team nears the mid-point of league play.
“As I said to the team, you don’t win this thing in January and you don’t lose it in January,” head coach Joe Mihalich said of the league. “I’m obviously upset with the fact that we’re not winning, but I’m not down and I’m not going to let these guys get down either….We feel like we’re really close. We’re on the wrong side of close, but we feel like we’re close.”
Pemberton – who finished the night with a career-high 26 points – was the clear bright spot for the Hofstra Thursday night. His 15 second-half points included the Pride’s last 10 of the night before Powers’ inconsequential layup at the buzzer.
“I sometimes forget he’s a freshman,” Mihalich said of Pemberton. “He’s had some stretches where we’ve put him in position where maybe he can get a little overwhelmed, but he’s been great. He’s getting better every game.”
Pemberton was not the only freshman to enjoy a career night, as Towson’s Zane Martin posted a personal-best 23. The Philadelphia native eclipsed his previous career-high (11 vs Division III Goucher College) with 13 points in the first half alone.
Martin paced the Tigers, who placed five players in double-figures for the third time this season. William Adala Moto, Deshaun Morman, and John Davis each posted 14 points in the victory while Jordan McNeil added a season-high 13.
Towson, which was held to 0.96 points per possession in the first half, finished the game with 1.24 PPP. Their 54 second-half points were bested only by a 57-point outburst in the second half of a 90-87 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on December 10. It was their fifth half of 50+ points this season, and their fourth against a Division I opponent.
Pemberton’s 26 points led the Pride, who saw Powers (19) and sophomore Justin Wright-Foreman (18) join him in double figures.
“Mentality is everything for us, and we have to go into that next game even harder,” Pemberton added. “We are getting close, but just today we didn’t cut it. Next game we have to pull together as one.”
Hofstra, fresh off a three game road swing including visits to conference powers Charleston and UNCW, plays three of their next four at home. The Pride will take on Northeastern Saturday afternoon before taking a short trip to Drexel next Thursday night looking to get back in the win column.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.