Hofstra opened its season with a win for the fourth consecutive season as the Pride held off Army West Point 77-74 despite trotting out a lineup of just seven players Friday night.
Junior Justin Wright-Foreman kicked off the new season with a performance in line with what we have come to expect after his stellar sophomore campaign. The Queens native hoisted up 40 percent of his team’s shots, but led all scorers with 25 points.
“Me needing to score the ball and being the go-to guy, I have to find ways just to get involved,” Wright-Foreman said. “Just being positive, especially on the defensive end and just being in the gaps and helping people I guess translated to the offensive end.”
Mentioned as one of our Bold Predictions for 2017-18, Wright-Foreman has a chance to lead the CAA in scoring this season, and he certainly got off to a quick start in that regard.
A handful of players – including sophomore Eli Pemberton and newcomer Kenny Wormley – were held out of action Friday due to a violation of team rules. In lieu of them, redshirt sophomore Desure Buie started at point guard while freshman Jalen Ray got the first call to complete the backcourt.
Buie, who missed most of last season following an ACL injury suffered in the Pride’s eighth game of the year at Columbia, had to wait a little longer than expected to see major action. Despite getting the start, Buie picked up two fouls early in the first half and rode the bench until the break.
After intermission, Buie broke out to the tune of 12 points – a new career high. The Bronx native added four assists and three rebounds in a solid comeback performance.
“I knew my team needed me in the second half,” Buie said. “I knew I had to step up and fill in a big role. I tried to do that in the second half and play as hard as I can to get my team the win.”
With less than four minutes remaining and Hofstra down by one, Wright-Foreman and Buie went back-to-back on 3-point plays over an 18-second span to push the Pride ahead by five with 3:12 left to play. That lead matched the largest for either team in the second half, and came about due to the phenomenal rapport on display between the two guards who came into the program together two years ago.
“Me and Justin, we’re close friends,” Buie said. “We’ve been roommates for two years. We’re always together. We’ve got that connection on and off the court. It’s bigger than on the court, but it just translates on the court.”
“The chemistry that we have has built up over the years, even in high school,” Wright-Foreman added. “It’s just translated on the court, and then today happened.”
Ray earned the start in his first career game and came through with a 10-point performance off the bat. Fellow newcomer Joel Angus III, a graduate transfer from Southeast Missouri State, rounded out the starting lineup alongside Rokas Gustys in the frontcourt and nearly notched a double-double in his first game with the Pride. Angus finished the night with 13 points and eight rebounds.
“This is what excites me, is that they were good but I think they’re even better than that,” head coach Joe Mihalich said of Ray and Angus. “I don’t think either one of them had great nights. They’ve had better exhibition games when we played up in Canada and with our scrimmages. They can get even better.”
Gustys was the lone starter not to finish with a double figure point total, but got off to a strong defensive start with 12 rebounds.
Forwards Hunter Sabety and Matija Radovic were the other Pride players to make it into Friday’s game. Sabety came on in relief of Gustys early in the first half and finished 3-3 from the field for six points alongside six rebounds. Meanwhile, Radovic struggled from the field. The freshman launched all eight of his attempts from 3-point range, but connected on just one. He finished the night with five points and five rebounds.
Army landed three players in double figures, led by 17 points from sophomore Matt Wilson. Last year’s leading scorer Jordan Fox (12.8 ppg) was held scoreless for the game’s first 14 minutes, but finished the night with 13. Jacob Kessler added 12 on 5-6 shooting.
Hofstra will be back in action on the other side of the weekend when they host Kennesaw State on Monday night.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.