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Zeke Upshaw, Jordan Allen help Hofstra keep it close in loss to Manhattan

Hofstra guard Zeke Upshaw dribbles upcourt against Manhattan

Hofstra guard Zeke Upshaw dribbles upcourt against Manhattan during the first half. (Nov. 30, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Jordan Allen remembers the last time he played point guard. He was in the third grade, long before a growth spurt made him a forward for what he figured would be the duration of his basketball career. "I was real feeble," he said. "I was really clumsy."

Allen was pressed to play the lead guard role for Hofstra Saturday against Manhattan, a team that loves to press and trap. And the 6-6 redshirt sophomore never wilted.

Hofstra's 66-59 loss at the Mack Sports Complex had nothing to do with the Bay Shore and Long Island Lutheran product's ballhandling prowess. Allen had four assists to one turnover in 33 minutes and contributed four points and six rebounds while filling in for the injured Dion Nesmith. "He's like your third catcher," coach Joe Mihalich said. "Emergency point guard . . . It's something to really be proud of."

Hofstra (2-5) had a chance to win, too, against one of the top teams in the MAAC. The score was tied at 58 with 2:46 left after two free throws by Pride senior forward Stephen Nwaukoni.

Where Nesmith was missed most was guarding the perimeter, especially down the stretch

. Manhattan point guard Michael Alvarado, who had 17 of his 23 points in the second half, hit a floater with 1:32 remaining to put Manhattan (4-2) ahead 62-59. He got into the lane again on the next possession, missing a tough layup before Jaspers big man Rhamel Brown tipped it in for a five-point lead with 25.8 seconds left.

"They were able to drive it,'' Mihalich said. "I think that's the strength of their team. We didn't defend the drive."

Zeke Upshaw had 14 of his 21 points in the second half to keep Hofstra close. Sophomore Darren Payen had 10 points and freshman Jamall Robinson contributed seven assists.

Nesmith, who is averaging 13.5 points per game, is day-to-day, Mihalich said. A Hofstra spokesman said he has a leg injury. For now, Allen is available.

"I consider myself a basketball player that [can play] 1 through 5," Allen said. "If you can think the game, you can play pretty much any position, barring physical stature.''

He wasn't 6-6 the last time he played point guard, of course, but this version of Allen got the job done. "Now I kind of got my legs and I'm getting some experience," he said. "It's a little better than when I was in third grade."

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