A lack of toughness, as Joe Mihalich put it, had been a problem for the Hofstra men’s basketball team in recent weeks.
After a 13-point loss at Siena on Dec. 9, Mihalich ran his players through a mini boot camp. They responded 11 days later with just “29 good minutes” in a loss to Stony Brook.
With toughness in mind Tuesday night, Hofstra gave 40 hard-nosed minutes and defeated Florida Atlantic University, 68-54, at the Mack Sports Complex in its first home game since Nov. 16.
“We just got away from being tough for a couple of weeks,” Mihalich said. “Early in the year, we were a tough team. When we’re tough, we’re good. I thought we did that today.”
The Pride (7-4) out-rebounded the Owls, 47-28 (18-5 offensively), and overcame a 38.1 percent shooting performance with a mixture of 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones that held the opposition to 35.3 percent shooting.
Ameen Tanksley, a 6-6 wing, scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds. Juan’ya Green had 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Brian Bernardi scored 10 points.
“Ameen was grabbing rebounds and throwing people to the ground like his old self,” Mihalich said. “He was one of our best rebounders his first two years of college, and then he started making shots. Now he’s doing both.”
Tanksley’s 15 first-half points helped Hofstra open a 34-23 lead at halftime. His back-to-back three-pointers highlighted an 11-2 run to close the half.
In the second half, Hofstra used another 11-2 run to take a 45-25 lead, its largest of the game, with 17:07 left. The Owls cut the gap 49-37 six minutes later, but Hofstra dug in and never let the lead slip any further.
“I was just desperate,” Tanksley said. “I wasn’t going home without the win.”