Hofstra senior Rokas Gustys entered Thursday evening one rebound shy of matching the program’s Division I record. He ended up with that and many more. Gustys pulled down 16 total boards along with 17 points for his 10th double-double of the season as the Flying Dutchmen soared past UNCW by the final score of 96-76.
Yes, you read that right. In celebration of its rich history, Hofstra turned back the clock Thursday night, suiting up in 1950s era uniforms and playing under its defunct moniker Flying Dutchmen. Hofstra abandoned the nickname in favor of Pride in the early 2000’s as part of a rebranding effort at the university.
For one night at least, the old name rang through the rafters and with it a win which put Hofstra back within striking distance of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Gustys needed just two rebounds to pass John Irving (’77) for second all-time in rebounding at Hofstra and first place at the Division I level. The senior accomplished the feat within the game’s first eight minutes, with each of his first two boards coming on the offensive glass.
“It feels great, especially when you get the win,” Gustys said of his accomplishment. “I’m happy, and I really like being here at Hofstra, being coached by coach [Mihalich] and having the players around me who help a lot. Putting my name in the record book feels amazing.”
“It’s an incredible thing,” head coach Joe Mihalich said of Gustys’ record. “I said this to Rokas about a month ago, I said ‘look, you’re rewriting the record book. God-willing you’re going to do what you did tonight, be the all-time leading Division I rebounder here, but let’s see if we can’t win as many games as possible and get you climbing up a ladder here at the end of the year.’”
UNCW matched Hofstra blow for blow through the first quarter, but an 11-0 Dutchmen run midway through the first half propelled them out in front for good.
Sophomore Eli Pemberton fell just one point shy of a career high, capping the night with 27 points on 7-10 shooting along with seven rebounds (four offensive) and a personal-best 11 made free throws.
“A couple of games, I’ve got a problem with being inconsistent and leaving my team for dead,” Pemberton said. “Today I felt like once I started crashing the offensive glass and doing the little things, my game just opened up and it made everything easier around it.”
As a team, Hofstra shot a scintillating 63.0% from the field with an 11-17 (64.7%) mark from three-point range. The three-point percentage marks the program’s best under head coach Joe Mihalich, while the overall field goal percentage was last matched Feb. 15, 2015 in an 81-57 victory at Drexel.
In an encouraging sign for Hofstra, point guard Desure Buie dished out a career-high 10 assists in the win. Now at the end of his path of recovery from a torn ACL which put an early end to his 2016-17 season, Buie has settled in at the point and is averaging 5.4 apg over his last five games.
“He leads the team, gets us into an offense, and he has an understanding of what the team is trying to do,” Mihalich said of Buie. “He gets the ball to people. Juan’ya Green was just exceptional, but [Buie] gets the ball to Rokas better than anybody. He’s played good basketball and made the team better.”
Fellow point guard Kenny Wormley also turned in a memorable performance. The junior college addition had his best game in a Hofstra uniform with a season-high 12 points.
Not to be forgotten in the backcourt, leading scorer Justin Wright-Foreman poured in 23 points on 5-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Wright-Foreman has now eclipsed 20 points in a game a remarkable 19 times this season and remains entrenched among the top scorers in the nation.
Hofstra now sits at 7-4 in CAA play, just a game behind William & Mary and College of Charleston in the league standings. The Dutchmen will revert back to the Pride Saturday evening when they play host to Charleston with a share of first place on the line. Hofstra fell to the Cougars 76-70 two weeks ago, and will be out for revenge.
“We’ve got to get ready for a really good team,” Mihalich said. “They were picked number one in the league and they’ve got a lot of firepower. We played really well down there against them for about 30 minutes, but you’ve got to play 40 minutes against them or else you’re not going to win. It’s February, and we want to be good in February because to be good in March, you’ve got to be good in February.”
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.