Maybe the most positive sign for Hofstra was the disappointment. There was no solace in "nice try" or "good effort" in the start of a new era with a new coach and an almost completely new roster. The Pride fell short against Monmouth in its season opener Friday night, 88-84, and no one was proud of it.
"In the game of basketball, you get what you deserve. We didn't deserve to win," Joe Mihalich said after his first game as Hofstra coach after a long and successful run at Niagara.
The Pride had the home student section roaring with a nine-point lead at halftime and a 13-point bulge early in the second half. But Monmouth had more energy and depth. "It was kind of a night when it was time to get really, really tough. We didn't do it,'' Mihalich said. "When it was time to make a defensive stop, when it was time to get a rebound, we didn't do it. And to their credit, they did."
Hofstra transfer Dion Nesmith, a graduate student who played for Monmouth last season, was among the most disappointed after his legs cramped up after 10 points and five assists.
"It was definitely exciting. It was a game we controlled for a while," he said. "A lot of it was on my shoulders. I played point guard, I'm one of the older guys on the team. I have to be in situations like that, to lead my team to victory."
He had to play point guard most of the night because the expected starter, freshman Eliel Gonzalez, is having his eligibility reviewed by the NCAA, Hofstra said in a statement. The school added: "Student privacy laws prevent Hofstra from providing further comment."
Zeke Upshaw, a transfer from Illinois State, had 22 points but also cramped up -- possibly from having to carry too heavy a load. "I kind of felt like I let my teammates down," Upshaw said.
Monmouth got 22 points from Deon Jones, 19 points from Josh James and some timely play by 6-10 freshman Chris Brady (Harborfields).
Mihalich cited his team's lack of defensive rebounding, yet he kept his top rebounder, Stephen Nwaukoni, on the bench for much of the final five minutes. "We were having trouble scoring," Mihalich said of a team that doesn't have an abundance of resources.
It did, though, have a lot of resolve.
"It's going to be a work in progress here," Mihalich said. "Who knows? Maybe this will be the best thing that will happen to us this year."
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