No matter how many times coach Joe Mihalich hammered it home, his Hofstra players couldn't have been confident coming into conference play. Their only quantitative ways to predict future results? A losing non-conference record and being picked last in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll.
"I'm not sure if the guys really believed in themselves, that they could win," Mihalich said. "I believed it all along."
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The Pride doesn't have to think it can win in the CAA anymore. It has proven it.
Hofstra routed William & Mary, 77-60, on Wednesday night at the Mack Sports Complex. It might not have been the Pride's biggest win of the season -- beating College of Charleston on Jan. 11 started this ball rolling -- but it was a pivotal one. Hofstra (7-12, 3-1 CAA) has its best CAA start since 2010-11, when it went 4-0.
In Mihalich's first season as coach, the Pride could be a legitimate conference force.
"I think we can beat every team in the conference," said Zeke Upshaw, who led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds. "We have to go into every game thinking that."
Hofstra used a 17-0 run in the second half to take control of William & Mary (10-7, 2-2). During the stretch, Upshaw, sophomore Darren Payen and freshmen Chris Jenkins and Jamall Robinson all hit three-pointers. Jenkins' made it 59-39 with 11:16 left and whipped the Pride bench into a frenzy.
"The bench got into it and I think that got us going," Upshaw said. Upshaw scored six points during that stretch to help turn what was a three-point lead into a 20-point advantage.
"I don't know that we've had a stretch like that," Mihalich said. "I hope we have a couple more."
Dion Nesmith had 15 points and 10 assists and Stephen Nwaukoni had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Marcus Thornton led William & Mary with 17 points off the bench.
Mihalich loves his unsung team's newfound confidence. But he doesn't want to get carried away, either. "We know that we can lose to every team in the conference, too," he said.