Hofstra stretched its winning streak to three and moved into a three-way tie at 5-2 atop the CAA standings with a 90-63 beatdown of Delaware Thursday night.
Redshirt sophomore Desure Buie got off to a quick start, accounting for Hofstra’s first four points of the game. Buie, who played just eight games last season before suffering a torn ACL against Columbia, capped the night with career highs in both points (20) and assists (8).
“The star of the show tonight was Desure,” head coach Joe Mihalich lauded. “Not just because he was making shots. I thought he controlled the team, he energized us, and when he wasn’t shooting he got shots for other people. When you’re a good player, all you really want is a chance. Desure had a chance tonight and really took advantage of it.”
“That was the best tool for me, sitting down watching,” Buie said of his time on the sidelines last season. “I got to see what’s going on that I don’t see on the court, and I learned a lot from it.”
Buie entered the season with expectations to split time at the point guard position with JUCO transfer Kenny Wormley. The two have settled into a timeshare this season, but neither had been able to light up the scoreboard on a consistent basis. Buie had been averaging just 3.5 ppg this season with a combined 13 points over his last seven games.
It left his coaching staff waiting for a spark.
“I knew I had to bring energy to the team,” Buie said. “Me and coach actually had a meeting [two days ago] about my role, so I came into tonight with that mentality: that I’ve got to bring energy to the team and be the best I can.”
Despite the career effort, Buie did not lead the team in scoring. That honor was left to sophomore Eli Pemberton, who came through with 21 points on 7-12 shooting and has quietly averaged 17.7 ppg over his last four contests. Pemberton views himself as a playmaker in the backcourt, but gave credit to Buie for boosting his own game.
“Desure, honestly he’s like my mentor,” Pemberton said. “His IQ is second to none, especially on this team. He sees things that I don’t even see and he helps me as a playmaker. He’s the best playmaker on our team. Today was just absolutely phenomenal.”
Hofstra has gotten on a roll with its shooting of late. Last time out, the Pride shot 61.1% from the field in a 91-86 victory at Drexel. Against Delaware, Hofstra was 55.4% overall. It is the first time the Pride have shot over 50% from the field in consecutive games against Division I competition since doing so against La Salle and Appalachian State in December 2015.
The Pride’s scoring success surprisingly came with a less than customary contribution from leading scorer Justin Wright-Foreman. The junior entered the night as the nation’s third-leading scorer at 25.6 ppg, but finished with a season-low 15 on 6-12 shooting.
“If you had told me before the game Justin would have 15 points and we’d still get 90, I’d have to ask you to explain it to me,” Mihalich said. “His composure was great, his poise was great, and that’s what’s made him good. It’s great to see that we don’t need Justin to score 30 points for us to win.”
Hofstra certainly did damage on the offensive end, but the defense held up its end of the bargain as well. Although Delaware shot 44.8% from the field, the Blue Hens were just 2-13 from beyond the arc. It is an ongoing struggle for Delaware, which shot just 2-14 from three-point range last time out at James Madison.
Delaware placed three in double figures, led by 16 points from freshman Ryan Allen. Senior Anthony Mosley posted 15 while last season’s CAA Rookie of the Year Ryan Daly added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Freshman Jalen Ray added 10 points for Hofstra to reach double figures for the sixth time this season while Rokas Gustys pulled down 14 rebounds and has moved into the top five nationally on the glass.
The Pride will head south this weekend to take on preseason top choice College of Charleston. Tip-off is set for 4:00 PM Saturday afternoon.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.