Hofstra ended a six game slide and got back in the win column with a 78-73 victory over Northeastern Saturday afternoon at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, NY.
The win lifts the Pride out of a last-place tie in the league as they approach the second half of the conference schedule, and evens the all-time series with the Huskies at 20 apiece as Hofstra has captured the last three meetings.
“It’s an incredible relief,” Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich said of ending the losing streak. “This is all about winning. You do this to win, and it’s why you play the games and why you keep score. I felt like we were playing really hard…so to come away with nothing to show for your efforts was frustrating. Now we can just take a deep breath and know that we can win every game.”
Sophomore guard Justin Wright-Foreman played a starring role, matching a career high with 30 points on 11-15 shooting. The Queens native has posted double-figures in each of his last eleven games and assumed the spot of the team’s leading scorer. He now tops the Pride with 14.5 ppg on the season after posting just 44 points in the entirety of his freshman campaign.
“I feel really comfortable,” Wright-Foreman said of his increasing role as the season has worn on. “My teammates believe in me, coaches believe in me. It just gives me more confidence to shoot the ball and help the team win in any way I can.”
Wright-Foreman’s 3-pointer with 11:28 remaining gave the Pride a 16 point lead, their largest lead of the day. However, Northeastern clawed back to cut the deficit to just four before Wright-Foreman stopped the bleeding on a layup with 3:18 to play. His two baskets were the only two Hofstra field goals over that stretch.
“Even coming into the season, last year we knew he was a great scorer,” Powers said of Wright-Foreman. “He’s finally starting to fill into that role as our scorer of the team.”
Northeastern’s 16-4 run during that period came courtesy of T.J. Williams, Alex Murphy, and Devon Begley, the only three Huskies to finish in double-figures. The trio combined for 59 of Northeastern’s 73 points. Williams ended the day with 25 while Murphy and Begley finished with 18 and 16 respectively.
The Huskies got within two on Shawn Occeus’ 3-pointer with 47 seconds remaining, but Hofstra’ Deron Powers came through with a traditional 3-point play on the other end 30 seconds later, providing the Pride enough breathing room to capture their first win of 2017.
“I just came off the screen, saw the lane open up, and I just took it,” Powers said of his late basket. “Nobody was in front of me, so I just took it to the basket.”
The Pride’s offense was in full gear all game long, as they scored at a stellar rate of 1.31 points per possession in the first half, finishing the game at 1.21.
After posting single-digit totals in three of his last five games, Hofstra senior Brian Bernardi got back on track with 16 points, his most since posting 18 against William & Mary back on January 2.
“I always like to use the line that Julius Erving uses: ‘You only feel pressure if they ask you to do something you can’t do,’” Mihalich said, referring to a recent meeting he had with Bernardi. “I told Brian, just like Julius Erving when you’re playing basketball it’s what you do best. Just relax and go do it. Julius Erving used to say ‘Ask me to fly an airplane and I’m going to feel pressure because I don’t know how to do that.’ We just had to remind Brian to relax and play basketball, because that’s what he does.”
Hofstra will have an opportunity to build on Saturday’s success as they don’t stray far from home over the next two weeks. The Pride are slated for a trip to Drexel next Thursday, but then return to Hempstead for a three game home stand entering February.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.