FULLERTON, Calif. — Hofstra continues its three-game trip to California on Sunday after earning what might have been a season-altering victory.
The Pride will face Cal State Fullerton less than 72 hours after handing UCLA its first loss in five games this season. Hofstra rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit for a stunning 88-78 win at Pauley Pavilion.
The victory was the program’s first against UCLA — one of college basketball’s traditional powers — in three attempts.
“That was definitely huge,” said guard Desure Buie, who had a career-high 29 points. “That was a step in the right direction. I think everybody’s got their confidence now, so things will flow better.”
Eli Pemberton, who contributed 15 points, agreed.
“For the team, it’s a big boost,” the senior guard said. “We beat a Power Five team, a major-conference team, so it should promote that we’re good enough to make sure that we do this every day from here on out.
“The focus that whole week playing UCLA was incredible. Now consistency is the main thing.”
“There are two things you have to deal with in life, failure and success,” Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. “Now we have to deal with some success and how we’re going to handle it.’’
The Pride experienced that sensation after UCLA made 12 of its first 17 shots to build a 32-19 advantage with 8:14 left before halftime.
Hofstra later outscored UCLA 31-13 to take an 82-72 lead with 2:49 remaining. Jalen Ray scored 13 of his career-high 27 points in that span.
“Of course they’re bigger and taller than us,” Ray said. “We just thought, ‘Be locked in on defense and we can get a win.’ ”
“We just tried to be hungry and be the dogs on the floor,” Buie said. “Defensively, I think we were great.”
As a result, Mihalich received a deluge of congratulations.
“I probably got 350 text messages, emails,” he said. “There are very few people I didn’t hear from. A couple of people think it’s the best win in the history of Hofstra basketball. I don’t know about that. I think when you go to the NCAA Tournament, those wins are the biggest wins.’’
Mihalich can be sure of one thing.
“I know when these kids are 50, 60 years old,” he said, “they’re going to look back and say, ‘We beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.’ ’’
Now Hofstra will take on Fullerton (2-2). Austen Awosika leads the Titans with a 17.3 scoring average.
On Wednesday night, Hofstra will try to secure the program’s first victory over San Diego (2-4), which will face 25th-ranked Washington on Sunday night. In their only previous meeting, San Diego routed the Pride, 78-49, during the 1990-91 season.