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Hofstra can't overcome shooting woes in loss to UNC Wilmington

Hofstra guard Stevie Mejia looks on during action

Hofstra guard Stevie Mejia looks on during action against UNC Wilmington in the second half. (Jan. 26, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Mo Cassara was annoyed and he expressed his displeasure. With all that the Hofstra men's basketball team has experienced, there still is an opportunity for a successful season in the tightly bunched Colonial Athletic Association. Cassara firmly believes there is more at stake than merely playing out the schedule, but Saturday's performance by the Pride did not advance that notion.

"Certainly a frustrating end to a very frustrating week for us as a program, as a team, as a group, as a unit,'' Cassara said after a 57-51 loss to UNC Wilmington at the Mack Sports Complex.

This was totally different from Wednesday's dagger by Drexel, brought about by a heave from midcourt at the buzzer. This felt more self-inflicted.

"We certainly didn't give our best effort today. I told our team that,'' Cassara said.

UNC Wilmington won the game by hitting 47.8 percent from three-point range. Hofstra lost because it shot 34.7 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from outside the arc. Taran Buie, who led Hofstra with 13 points, went 4-for-15. Stevie Mejia was 2-for-11. Each committed five turnovers.

The Pride had 18 turnovers, the fourth straight game it has finished in the high double-digits.

"You're not going to win whether it's home or on the road playing like that," Cassara said of the turnovers. "That's been our big issue. We've got to continue finding a way to change that.''

UNC Wilmington (8-11, 3-4) has a big front line, but Hofstra (5-15, 2-5) was brought down by guards Chris Dixon (22 points) and Tanner Milson (17).

Hofstra's five-point halftime lead quickly became two when Dixon hit a three-pointer 52 seconds into the second half. Mejia hit a free throw, but the Seahawks went on a 9-0 run sparked by Milson's consecutive three-pointers to take a six-point lead with 15:44 left.

Hofstra briefly rallied, going up by one on Mejia's trey with 11:02 left. But UNC Wilmington got a three-pointer from Milson to move ahead by five with 6:48 to play, and Hofstra wasn't doing much beyond hitting free throws (14-for-19). When Milson hit an off-balance jumper from the baseline with 3:13 on the clock, the Seahawks went ahead 47-42.

Cassara thought his team should have had a bigger halftime lead after coming back from an 11-2 deficit.

"I don't think we're lacking the killer instinct,'' Mejia said. "We just didn't have the effort. We were flat. Shots weren't going in, we didn't defend. We're frustrated.''

Cassara wants to put a stop to that immediately. A game or two in the loss column is all that separated most of the teams in the conference before Saturday's games.

"There's a lot of opportunities, a lot of basketball to be played,'' Cassara said. "I told our guys tonight was the first time where we didn't give our best effort. That's what I'm disappointed in.

"Our staff and our team is a resilient group. We're going to come back and we're going to find a way to shift things around.''

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