Hofstra head coach Speedy Claxton against William and Mary at...

Hofstra head coach Speedy Claxton against William and Mary at Hofstra on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Credit: Lee S. Weissman/Lee S. Weissman

WASHINGTON — Speedy Claxton, casually dressed in a white top and black pants, was anything but relaxed in the first half Sunday night.

He spent most of that time with his arms folded in front of the Hofstra bench, watching his team build a hole that only a gopher could have escaped from.

The third-seeded Pride lost to sixth-seeded College of Charleston, 92-76, in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington. Hofstra fell behind 19-8 in the opening minutes and 55-33 at halftime.

Claxton, in his first season at the helm of his alma mater, saw his team fall to 21-11 and its dream of a trip to the NCAA Tournament vanish.

"It’s a tough way to end the season," said Claxton, who said his team needs to get tougher.

Hofstra won the two regular-season games against the Cougars by a total of eight points, the latest an 89-84 decision at home Feb. 28. Claxton said a few days later that he didn’t like the idea of playing the same team again in the CAA Tournament. On Sunday night, the Pride and their fans found out why.

"This generation tends to relax when you beat a team twice,’’ Claxton said.

John Meeks led Charleston with 31 points, 22 of them in the first half. "He is a tough guard," Claxton said. "They took it to us. This game honors toughness."

"John willed us to the win. John was sensational tonight,’’ Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. "I am glad we don’t have to see them again."

Charleston will play No. 2 seed UNC Wilmington on Monday in the semifinals.

At one point late in the first half, Claxton raised his arms in dismay after his team allowed an easy dunk to give the Cougars a 53-29 lead.

"We shot it really, really well in the first half," Kelsey said. "They are a nightmare to guard. They say in sports, beating a good team three times in a season is difficult."

Jalen Ray, who led the Pride with 21 points, hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Hofstra’s deficit to 70-63 before the Cougars called timeout with 10:47 remaining.

A basket by Aaron Estrada cut Charleston’s lead to 76-67 with 6:41 to go. But Dimitrius Underwood’s layup made it 90-72 with 2:22 left.

Junior guard Estrada, named the CAA Player of the Year on Thursday, entered the game averaging 18.5 points and scored 19.

Abayomi Iyiola had 11 points and five rebounds for Hofstra. Zach Cooks, the Sixth Man of the Year in the CAA, scored eight.

The Pride were outrebounded 40-26 and outscored 46-30 in the paint.

"It means everything," Ray said of his five years with the program. "Coming out of high school, I didn’t have a lot of chances. Hofstra took a chance and I am grateful with everything they have given me."

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