Brian Bernardi got Hofstra back in the game. Then Rokas Gustys took over.
Gustys had 25 points and 15 rebounds as Hofstra beat William & Mary, 86-80, on Thursday night in Williamsburg, Virginia. He contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Pride’s 48-point second half after Bernardi scored all 13 of his points in the final 11:34 of the first half to help erase a 16-8 deficit. William & Mary had scored the first nine points of the game.
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The Pride was coming off a pair of three-point losses to North Carolina Wilmington and James Madison. “Character win. Toughness and character. If you want to win a championship, you’ve got to have those two things,’’ Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said in his postgame media session provided online by the university. “No one’s tougher than us. We showed what character we have tonight. We’re coming off two tough, tough, heartbreaking losses, and our guys never lost their spirit. Never, never for one second.’’
Juan’ya Green had 13 points and 12 assists for the Pride (17-8, 9-4 Colonial Athletic Association) and combined with Gustys to provide a nice 1-2 punch. “We kiddingly talk about Stockton and Malone; how much better were Stockton and Malone?’’ Mihalich said. ‘’Who can use a ball screen better than Juan’ya Green? I mean, I’ve talked about his ability as a passer and how I think it’s elite, but the other part of it is how well he uses a ball screen. He’s terrific.’’
Mihalich added, ‘’He’s amazing. He’s an amazing player. No one’s playing better than him. There’s a lot of great players in this league, but he’s player of the year. There’s no doubt about that.’’
Gustys, a 6-9, 260-pound sophomore, has been on a tear for Hofstra. In the last eight games, he is averaging 18.4 points and 17.0 rebounds and is shooting 62-for-92. His double-double was his 10th in the last 11 games.
Ameen Tanksley had 18 points and Denton Koon added 13 for the Pride, which shot 34-for-63 (54 percent) from the field. Tanksley’s layup produced a 79-66 lead with 6:38 remaining.
Omar Prewitt had 25 points and David Cohn added 13 for William & Mary (17-7, 9-4).
Hofstra had handed William & Mary a 91-63 loss on Jan. 24 in Hempstead. “We played an angry team,’’ Mihalich said. “We kind of embarrassed them up there, so they were fired up.’’
The Pride remained two games out of first place as UNCW (11-2) edged Elon, 86-82. Hofstra is tied with James Madison and William & Mary for second, a game ahead of Towson (8-5).
— GREG GUTES