The ball rose for the opening tip of the Colonial Athletic Association schedule for the players in the home white jerseys with the great expectations on their shoulders.
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Hofstra was voted most likely to win the CAA title in the conference’s preseason poll. After showing some inconsistency during an eight-up, four-down non-conference run, including a struggle to beat one-win Sacred Heart on Monday, the Pride lived up to the advertising Thursday at the Mack Sports Complex, defeating Delaware, 90-80.
“It was a good feeling in that locker room,” coach Joe Mihalich said. “We won the other night and it felt like we lost. We won today and we felt like we had a good, hard-earned win. So we saw some progress here.”
All five starters delivered double-figure scoring. CAA preseason player of the year Juan’ya Green had 19 points and 11 assists. Denton Koon added 17 points. Ameen Tanksley added 16. Rokas Gustys had 13 points and nine rebounds. Brian Bernardi contributed 12 points.
“I think they have a lot of weapons,” said Blue Hens coach Monte Ross, whose top weapons were Anthony Mosley with 20 points and Marvin King-Davis with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The CAA is ranked eighth among 32 D-I conferences, its highest mark ever at this point in a season.
“We’ve got to remember just because everyone else says we’re supposed to win the league, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win the league,” Mihalich said. “We’ve got to be a little more mature about that and handle it a little bit better because all it is is a prediction.”
This was a 43-43 game early in the second half before Hofstra went on a 10-0 burst, bookended by threes from Bernardi and Tanksley.
Delaware cut it to 61-56, but Tanksley responded with a three. Delaware cut it to 64-58, but Green responded with a three. When Tanksley drilled his third three of the half, the cushion was 70-60 with 10:05 left. King-Davis’ jumper made it 82-75 with 4:52 remaining, but Delaware would get no closer.
The Pride shot 14-for-33 from three-point range. “That’s where they’re so deadly from,” King-Davis said.
Koon scored seven points in a 17-4 run that gave Hofstra a 33-23 advantage. The Pride settled for a 43-40 lead at the break.
The players had prepped by revisiting a painful experience: the one-point, two-overtime loss to William & Mary in the CAA Tournament semifinals last March.
“We actually watched the video yesterday just to kind of motivate us for this game,” Green said. “We don’t want to have that feeling no more.”