As he sat in front of the microphone for the postgame news conference following Hofstra's 93-54 blowout of North Carolina-Wilmington last night at Mack Sports Complex, coach Tom Pecora let out a sigh of relief that was about five weeks in the making.
"That felt good,'' Pecora said. "We haven't had one of those in 100 years. I told the kids at practice we were due. Eventually, they'll start going in . . . I'm happy to be back home. I hope we can build off that.''
The victory snapped a five-game losing streak; the Pride (10-12, 3-7 Colonial Athletic Association) had lost nine of its previous 11 games dating to the Holiday Festival just before Christmas. Close losses early in that span were turning into bigger losses, including four of the last five by double digits.
But all the bad vibes disappeared when junior center Greg Washington hit a 16-foot jumper to open the game and then made two more baskets in quick succession. That got his motor running, and when Washington is looking for his shot and blocking shots on the defensive end, good things follow for Hofstra.
Asked if his game picks up when he gets involved early, Washington said, "It kind of does. The past five losses, I haven't been shooting well. For me to get the looks I got tonight is fine with me.''
The Pride got another good omen when Cornelius Vines, who had a recent crisis of confidence with his jump shot, hit a three on the first one he hoisted. That lit the fuse for liftoff and separation by the Pride, which went on an extended 43-15 run to take a 32-point lead just before Wilmington (7-14, 3-7) hit a three before the halftime buzzer to make its deficit 54-25.
If the Seahawks had any chance to stop Hofstra's momentum, it disappeared when Jeremy Basnight was called for an intentional foul on Pride star Charles Jenkins, who made the layup. Wilmington coach Benny Moss protested and drew a technical. That gave Jenkins four foul shots, two for the intentional foul and two for the technical. He made them all.
Hofstra kept the ball because of the intentional foul, and Jenkins capped an eight-point possession with a layup for a 34-9 lead with 9:16 left in the first half.
"Coach let me shoot all the free throws,'' Jenkins said. "It feels good . . . Losing five straight games gets a bit frustrating. We felt we let the coaching staff down. It had to change.''
As the lead mounted to a high of 42 points, Pecora told his team to stay aggressive. Not that he was running up the score, but his players needed positive reinforcement. Ultimately, the Pride had five players in double figures, including Jenkins (24 points), Vines (15), Halil Kanacevic (14, eight rebounds) and Chaz Williams (11).
But the most impressive game belonged to Washington, who totaled 14 points, eight rebounds and a career-high 10 blocked shots.
"Gregory is the key to everything we do,'' Pecora said. "He needs to be that active.''