Tareq Coburn’s big day nearly came to a crashing halt in the second half on Saturday, when the Hofstra junior guard thudded hard to the floor after vying for an offensive rebound.
At the time of the fall, after landing flat on his back, the Queens product says he thought to himself, “I needed a day off or something.”
Coburn, who had made his first career start for the Pride, returned to the game and sealed his team’s 89-73 win over visiting Rider with an emphatic alley-oop dunk.
“You can take the rest of the day off [now],” Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich joked to Coburn during the postgame media conference.
Mihalich altered his starting lineup for the first time this season, and Coburn made the move pay immediate dividends.
While scoring machine Justin Wright-Foreman scored at least 20 points for the 10th straight game this season, Coburn contributed a career-high 19 points with eight rebounds in 34 minutes as Hofstra remained unbeaten at home (6-0) and improved to 7-3 overall ahead of Monday’s visit to Manhattan.
“I’ll give you a coach-line. We tell the guys all the time, it’s not who starts the game, it’s who finishes. But he’s been playing so well, and we figured maybe he was a little bit of a boost starting the game instead of coming off the bench,” Mihalich said of Coburn, who transferred to Hofstra last season following one year at St. Bonaventure. “He made us all look smart by playing the way he played tonight.”
Wright-Foreman, whose 27.2 scoring average entering the game ranked third in the nation, netted just eight of his 24 in the first half. Eli Pemberton picked up the slack and scored all 12 of his points in the opening 20 minutes, and Jalen Ray beat the halftime buzzer with a three-pointer to give the Pride a 44-39 edge.
Hofstra led by just five with 2:50 remaining, but the Pride tightened up defensively and finished the game on an 11-0 run, culminated by Wright-Foreman’s lob pass to Coburn for the game-sealing flush with 12 seconds remaining.
“[Starting] meant a lot to me,” said Coburn, who attended Cardozo High School in Bayside. “I didn’t start for two, three years. I just had to come out strong and show everybody what I can do and just keep improving and being consistent . . . I just had to keep getting up, keep fighting.”
Desure Buie scored 14 points, and big men Jacquil Taylor and Dan Dwyer combined for 14 points and 13 rebounds for Hofstra. Stevie Jordan registered 17 points and Dimencio Vaughn added 16 for Rider (2-3), which shot 9-for-20 from the free-throw line.
“Our crowd was into it. They were causing them to miss shots and being rowdy,” Wright-Foreman said. “We always talk about defending the home court. We try to be a good home team, as well as an away team. But to be unbeaten at home, that’s tough. To come in here, it’s not easy.”