Moussa Kone, Zeke Upshaw spark Hofstra in second half

Hofstra's Zeke Upshaw (3) puts in the basket

Hofstra's Zeke Upshaw (3) puts in the basket as Central Connecticut's Juwan Newman (2) tries to defend. (Dec. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: George A. Faella

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Joe Mihalich lit into Moussa Kone at halftime Sunday. The Hofstra coach questioned his 6-7 center's toughness, wondering how he managed to do so little against an unimposing Central Connecticut State front line.

"The paint was peeling off the walls, I was getting on him so much,'' Mihalich said.

The message must have gotten through, because Kone looked like a different player in the second half. He had nine of his 13 points in the final 20 minutes in a 72-67 Hofstra victory at Mack Sports Complex that snapped a three-game losing streak.

Kone didn't score as much as Zeke Upshaw did in the second half, when Upshaw had 16 of his 22 points. But Kone's baskets were significant, notably a booming, two-handed follow jam that gave Hofstra (3-6) a 59-57 lead with 4:53 left. Central Connecticut (3-7) didn't lead again after that.

"There's something about a dunk, especially a rebound dunk,'' Mihalich said. "It's only two points, but it feels like you're getting more than two.''

Kone also had a three-point play that gave Hofstra its first lead of the second half with 8:12 remaining. He added another big slam, off an alley-oop pass from Jordan Allen, that broke a tie at 61 with 3:22 to go.

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Whatever Mihalich told him in the locker room -- and Kone wouldn't discuss it directly -- must have worked. Afterward, Upshaw was asked if Mihalich had been hard on Kone. Upshaw nodded, opened his eyes wide and smiled.

"I can handle it,'' said Kone, who also had eight rebounds.

Jamall Robinson had 13 points and Stephen Nwaukoni added 12 points and 12 rebounds for Hofstra, which hadn't played since Dec. 4. A Dec. 7 game at Southern Methodist was postponed because of bad weather.

Faronte Drakeford scored 23 points for Central Connecticut, which shot better than Hofstra (47.2 percent to 41.5). The Pride also was a poor 22-for-46 from the foul line. Yet Hofstra, especially Kone, made all the key plays down the stretch.

"We found a way to win and we had a lot of chances to lose that game,'' Mihalich said. "Our guys wouldn't let it happen.''

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