Hofstra pulls together to beat William & Mary
It can get exhausting, coaching or watching Hofstra's men's basketball games. That is encouraging because, despite the team's thin roster, it means the games are interesting. It is a point of pride for the Pride, which scored an encouraging win Saturday, that the team is tired but not tiresome.
"I think we just pull together," Taran Buie said after scoring 24 points in a 70-59 home win over William & Mary. "We say 'family' in our huddles all the time. Every time something happens, we just try to have a family atmosphere. When things don't go right, we just try to pull together. We know that those guys in the locker room and the coaching staff are all we've got."
This win was uplifting for Hofstra because it showed that the one against Georgia State on Monday was no fluke. The Pride was beaten soundly at Delaware on Wednesday, which was basically what was to be expected for a squad that lost four key players to suspension and one to a season-ending injury.
Coach Mo Cassara said his team really won Saturday's game with spirited practices Thursday and Friday. "That's the sign of a team growing, that's the sign of a team sticking together, that's the sign of a team that hasn't given up," said Cassara, who admitted to "screaming and yelling" down the stretch.
Hofstra (5-11, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) realizes that it has to have exceptional energy, a good scouting report and just about flawless execution to win. "We have such a small margin for error,'' Cassara said. "That's why I'm on these guys about end-of-game situations and certain plays."
He did not have to yell at them for start-of-game situations Saturday. The Pride came out strong against William & Mary (7-8, 1-3), going up 16-2. Although guard Marcus Thornton, a sophomore whose average of 18.4 points per game is second in the conference, had 17 points, Hofstra -- mostly Jordan Allen -- stifled him for most of the day. Thornton did not score from the field until only 8:31 remained in the game. Overall, he went 3-for-13 and his team shot 34.5 percent.
"That's a good team," Cassara said. "Trust me, they've got a lot of good players. Their backcourt is as good as any in the league."
Hofstra countered with strong inside play: Stephen Nwaukoni scored all seven of his points in the first half and Moussa Kone had all eight of his in the second half. The Pride held off the visitors down the stretch, largely on the free- throw shooting of Stevie Mejia, who finished with 14 points.
The players believe that the best part of their game was the sort of thing that doesn't show on the statistics sheet. "That just comes from each other," said David Imes, who scored 10 points. "It starts with Coach. Everybody just pushes each other. Stevie is the core, and we just ride the wave."
It might turn out to be more like riding out a storm than riding a wave, but Hofstra is not backing down from it. "We just played three games in five days with basically seven guys," Cassara said. "Believe me, we have a long way to go. Nothing is going to be easy with us. But they were encouraging each other on the bench. To me, that's progress."