Rick Pitino's Iona team is too much for Hofstra
The end-to-end pressure and penchant for the three-pointer are signatures of Rick Pitino’s coaching style. His real trademark, though, is the intensity with which his teams play. And that was the one aspect Hofstra couldn’t keep up with against Pitino’s Iona team on Saturday.
The Pride made a couple of late charges at Iona after falling behind by 12 with nine minutes left, but Isaiah Ross scored 33 points as the Gaels beat Hofstra, 82-74, in a non-conference game at Mack Sports Complex.
"[It’s] about toughness — matching their toughness, hopefully exceeding it and playing with energy," Hofstra interim coach Mike Farrelly said. "This game honors toughness and we’ve got to play the right way all the time . . . They were a little bit tougher than us and they had a little bit better energy."
Pitino earned his first win with his new program just a short distance from where he grew up in Bayville. The 68-year-old Hall of Fame coach, who has won games with six different college programs across six decades, joked that he asked athletic director Matthew Glovaski for a two-year extension but that he would "have to take a 15% pay cut for the last two years."
It had the potential to be a sort of homecoming for Pitino, who said he just bought Islanders season tickets and is close with Islanders president Lou Lamoriello. But with COVID-19 forcing the teams to play without fans, his hometown friends couldn’t be at Hofstra for it. Instead, he had to be satisfied with a win.
Tareq Coburn had a career-high 28 points, Isaac Kante 17 points and eight rebounds and Jalen Ray 15 points for Hofstra (1-2).
Ross, a transfer from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, shot 10-for-17 from the field and 6-for-12 from three-point range for Iona (1-1). In one three-minute stretch, he made three-pointers on three straight possessions and scored 11 straight Iona points for their biggest lead at 62-50.
"When you get a guy like that going, it’s kind of tough," Coburn said.
Nellie Joseph had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Dylan van Eyck added 14 points for Iona, which was ferocious of the offensive glass. The Gaels pulled down 13 offensive rebounds and turned them into 19 second-chance points.
The back-breaker for Hofstra came right after Kante’s layup off a sweet feed from Caleb Burges (seven assists) cut Iona’s lead to 70-66. Van Eyck sank a three-pointer from the top of the arc and, after an empty Pride possession, Berrick JeanLouis drove for a layup and a nine-point lead with 3:18 left. The Pride never got closer than seven points in the final stretch.
"Against a team like that, you have to give everything from the jump," Coburn said. "That team gets up in you. You’ve got to have heart."