Zeke Upshaw, Dion Nesmith have strong nights, but not enough as Hofstra falls to Delaware

Hofstra's Zeke Upshaw drives to the hoop for

Hofstra's Zeke Upshaw drives to the hoop for two points and foul during the first half of an NCAA men's basketball game at Mack Sports Complex on Feb. 19, 2014. (Credit: James Escher)

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Hofstra's Dion Nesmith looks to get past Delaware's Hofstra vs. Delaware

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Zeke Upshaw has been around Hofstra only this one season, but he has seen enough to say, "We're so close to being where we want to be." That was never more true than Wednesday night, when the Pride was ever so close to beating the top team in the conference.

Upshaw and fellow graduate student Dion Nesmith, in fact, each had a shot to give Hofstra the lead late, but both three-pointers missed. And their team fell just short of its greatest win of the season. Score it 81-77 for Delaware and count it as a disappointment for the side that played well enough to be dissatisfied with coming close.

"We've lost 20 times this year and every time we lose it gets harder and harder," said Nesmith, who had 22 points, including 17 in the second half, as the Pride (8-20, 4-9 in the Colonial Athletic Association), playing at home did its best to hold off the conference leader (20-8, 12-1).

Upshaw, who had 18 of his 26 points in the first half as the Pride built a 15-point lead, said, "We've got to stop defeating ourselves. And I think we'll get over that hump."

They nearly got there last night, refusing to buckle when Delaware made a run. Hofstra was trailing 77-75 with 25.9 seconds left when it missed the two threes. Kyle Anderson (18 points) sank two free throws with 12.4 seconds left to ice it.

The Pride still has hopes for making noise in the conference tournament, even though it does not have the depth of Delaware, which had 27 and 24 points, respectively, from Davon Usher and Devon Saddler, and got a spark from Anderson's second-half shooting.

"We're playing shorthanded. Only six guys are getting all the minutes," said coach Joe Mihalich, who had only four players when he took over at Hofstra last spring. But he said that all of those guys have immense heart.

"As heartbroken as we are, we had a lot of fun out there. I'm really proud of this team," the coach said, again adding: "I am really proud of this team."

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