Hofstra’s 12-point first-half lead was gone, and suddenly the Pride found themselves in a no-holds-barred struggle with Drexel, which led by two points with 5:25 remaining Thursday night at the Mack Sports Complex. Then Juan’ya Green showed why he was voted preseason Colonial Athletic Association player of the year, going on a personal 10-0 run as Hofstra pulled out a 69-61 victory.
When Green ended that stretch by hitting a floater in the lane followed by a free throw for a 64-56 lead with 3:06 to play, he underlined the magnitude of his talent by becoming the third active player in Division I to top the 2,000-point career mark (D.J. Balentine of Evansville and John Brown of High Point are the others). Green added two more foul shots down the stretch to total 25 points and push his four-year total to 2,003 — 872 at Hofstra and 1,131 in two seasons at Niagara.
“When we had to make plays down the stretch, we made plays,” Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. “When you have someone like No. 1 on your team, just figure out a way. I was kidding him, the man needed 22 to reach that 2,000 mark. I said the worst thing would be to have 15 tonight and need seven on Saturday and can’t help but think about it. But that’s over, and he can start thinking about 3,000 now.”
The win was the sixth in seven games for Hofstra (12-5, 4-1 CAA), which remained tied for first place with William & Mary going into Saturday afternoon’s home game against James Madison (13-5, 3-2), which won Thursday night at Northeastern (11-7, 3-2).
Green needs 128 points to become the fourth player in NCAA Division I history to score 1,000 points at two schools, but he said the only milestone he ever really paid attention to was the 2,000-point barrier. That might explain why he went scoreless for more than 14 minutes at the start.
“The old me started coming back,” Green said of that stretch. “I missed a couple shots and started getting mad at myself.”
The Dragons (3-13, 1-4) shot only 26.3 percent in the first half but opened the second half with a 14-4 run to tie the score for the first time at 38. Forward Kazembe Abif led the way, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the second half.
Center Rokas Gustys, who had his fifth double-double in the past six games with 15 points and 10 rebounds, said the Pride let its defense slip for a spell in the paint. And Drexel’s defense held Hofstra to 3-for-18 shooting from three-point range. But when the Pride had to have it, it counted on Green.
“Definitely,” Gustys said. “He’s the first man we go to. He’s the best leader for us. We believe in him.”