With eyes turning toward the rapidly-approaching Colonial Athletic Association tournament, Hofstra took a step forward in the battle for desirable seeding with a 90-84 win over William & Mary Thursday night.
The Pride avenged an earlier 90-87 loss to the Tribe in the opening game of conference play during which William & Mary sophomore Nathan Knight went berserk with a career-high 31 points, personal-best eight blocks, and 11 rebounds.
This time around, Knight was held to 16 points and five rebounds without a single blocked shot. Overall, the Tribe are among the top scoring teams in the nation averaging 84.8 ppg, so Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich was pleased with his team’s ability to hold its potent opponent to that mark and below its average in field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
“This team is going to score 84 points every night,” Mihalich said of William & Mary. “Especially the way we play, with a really fast tempo. The battle-cry when you play against a team like that is they’re going to score some points, and you’ve got to out-score them, and we did.”
Hofstra senior Rokas Gustys stole the show with 22 points and 21 rebounds for his third career 20-point, 20-rebound performance and his first such game achieved in regulation. Gustys previously achieved the feat in back-to-back games during his sophomore season in Jan. 2016 with 25 points and 20 rebounds in overtime against James Madison and 23 points with 20 boards in a triple OT contest at Northeastern.
“I think our guys, as the years go on, have gotten better and better at getting the ball to him,” Mihalich said of Gustys. “We know to look for him, and he’s finishing when he does catch the ball.
Sophomore guard Eli Pemberton finished just two points shy of his career-high with 26 points on 8-13 shooting. The Middletown, CT native has broken the 20-point threshold in four of his last five games and is quietly averaging 16.1 ppg, second only to backcourt mate Justin Wright-Foreman’s 24.3 ppg which ranks fifth in the nation.
Wright-Foreman capped the night with 19 points, but set a new career high with seven assists. Thanks to his new-found facilitating abilities, the junior logged just two second-half points until the game’s final minute when he came through with the biggest basket of the night.
William & Mary narrowed what had been a 12-point halftime deficit to just four with 52 seconds remaining. That was when Wright-Foreman, who had been just 2-of-8 from three-point range on the night stepped up to bury a rattling triple to provide his team valuable breathing room down the stretch.
With the win, Hofstra now pulls into a third-place tie in the league standings with the Tribe. That third spot could be a valuable position come March, as league-leader College of Charleston will play host for the conference tournament. The Cougars are currently riding a nine-game winning streak and have not dropped a home contest this season.
The Pride will begin their stretch run with a critical contest against Drexel this Saturday before heading to James Madison and playing host to Towson to close the regular season next week.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.