BALTIMORE — If Hofstra has an “X factor” player who can make a difference in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, it’s three-point marksman Brian Bernardi. His play in the Pride’s 80-67 quarterfinal win over Drexel on Saturday afternoon at Royal Farms Arena was the perfect example.
Post man Rokas Gustys, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half, was in foul trouble and got up only two second-half shot attempts. But Bernardi stepped up to score 11 of his 14 points in the second half, shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range, and he was 4-for-8 overall from beyond the arc.
His three-pointers at critical times kept the Dragons at bay whenever they threatened to make a run. At one point, Bernardi, Ameen Tanksley and Juan’ya Green made consecutive threes to give Hofstra a 19-point lead with just over five minutes left in the game.
“I definitely think I can because everyone is so worried about Juan’ya, Ameen and Rokas,” Bernardi said of his “X factor” role. “If I’m able to do that for my team, it will be a big help for us.
“Our three-point shooting makes us very versatile because it’s hard to guard. When you have to guard outside and Rokas is in the middle, you’ve got to pick your poison with us.”
When this season began, Bernardi came out of the gate at a torrid pace, making 18 of 27 three-point attempts (66.7 percent) in the first four games. At midseason, he went into an eight-game tailspin in which he shot 14-for-60 from three-point range (23.3 percent). But he’s gotten back on the beam during Hofstra’s current seven-game winning streak, converting 19 of 43 three-pointers (44.2 percent).
“I’ve always had confidence,” Bernardi said of the slump. “I have to make sure I’m always in the shooting stance. I think I was getting away from that a little bit, standing up a little too much. My teammates tell me to keep shooting. If I have an open shot, they get mad at me when I don’t shoot it.”
If there was any question about how the Pride would handle a return to Royal Farms Arena, where last season effectively ended in a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to William & Mary in a CAA Tournament semifinal, it was answered by a commanding performance against Drexel.
“I don’t think what happened last year was in any of our minds,” Bernardi said. “We came out ready to play. I was excited to get on the court again. It’s a great venue.”