Hofstra loses by 29 in opener

Hofstra guard Stevie Mejia brings the ball downcourt

Hofstra guard Stevie Mejia brings the ball downcourt against Siena in the bracket buster men's basketball game. (Feb. 18, 2012) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

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WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. -- In an area hit hard by superstorm Sandy, Monmouth routed Hofstra, 91-62, Friday night in the men's basketball season opener for both teams.

Monmouth is the Jersey Shore's only Division I team, and the school's Multipurpose Athletic Center was used as a shelter for displaced residents after Sandy.

"This Shore area has gone through some very tough times," Monmouth coach King Rice said. "You just had to come into this building to see how bad it was. I just want to thank the [2,307] fans for coming out to see us.''

"Seeing all those [displaced] people in our gym last week was heartbreaking," said Monmouth guard Jesse Steele, who shrugged off early foul trouble to score 10 second-half points to go with four steals. "It was truly emotional. So we came out playing emotional ball of our own. That was a very big difference."

Coach Mo Cassara's Hofstra teams had been 2-0 in season openers (beating Farmingdale in 2010 and LIU in 2011), but the Pride had no chance to make it three.

"You don't win games when you let them shoot 50 percent [the host Hawks shot 36-for-72 from the floor] and turn the ball over 23 times," Cassara said. "That is not a winning formula. This is obviously not the start we wanted.

"It doesn't matter where in the season it happens. Monmouth played great. Give all credit to coach Rice and his guys. They were ready to play. We were not."

Shaquille Stokes, a heralded sophomore transfer from Hawaii who had been a New York City player of the year at Brooklyn's Lincoln High School, came off the bench to score 12 points in 26 minutes for Hofstra.

Stevie Mejia also had 12 points, Jimmy Hall 11 and Moussa Kone 10. Hall had 12 rebounds and Stephen Nwaukoni added 11.

"It wasn't the way I'd have wanted to start my Hofstra career," Stokes said. "Not close. It took me a while to get going but by then it was too late."

Said Rice, "[Hofstra's] a bigger team from a bigger league [the Colonial Athletic Association], but this was a matchup of styles, and tonight our style won."

Monmouth defenders forced Hofstra into errors all night long. The Pride shot 19-for-65 (29.2 percent) from the floor and 4-for-19 from three-point range.

The Hawks, of the Northeast Conference, got 28 points from unsung sophomore Andrew Nicholas.

Monmouth took a 15-3 lead, and after Hofstra scored eight straight points to move within 19-17, the Hawks went ahead 50-31 at halftime.

The Price got within 64-52 with just under nine minutes remaining, only to see Monmouth break it open again and pull away.

Hofstra will play Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday and returns for its home opener against South Dakota State on Friday.

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