Forget Hofstra’s 2-8 record in the Colonial Athletic Association. Pride men’s basketball coach Joe Mihalich isn’t paying it much attention. He thinks he has a better team than the standings show and hopes to prove it in time for the conference tournament.
Hofstra lost to Elon, 84-70, on Saturday at Mack Sports Complex, and considering the Pride played without two injured starters, the effort had to suffice in the face of another loss.
“We talk about it all the time and I know the guys are probably getting tired hearing about the same thing,’’ Mihalich said. “But, you know, with all due respect to everybody we’ve played, we don’t feel like there’s a team we can’t beat.
“I think the league has shaken out to be two teams [UNC Wilmington and Charleston] that are a little bit better than everybody else and then eight teams, throw a blanket over those eight teams, they’re all the same.
“I just said to the guys, January’s over. You don’t win a championship in January; you don’t lose it, either. Let’s get good in February so we can be good for one weekend in March.’’
Leading rebounder Rokas Gustys and second-leading scorer Eli Pemberton were unable to play with what Mihalich termed lower-body injuries. Hofstra (10-13 overall) had difficulty defending 6-8 forwards Tyler Seibring (23 points) and Brian Dawkins (22).
Though Brian Bernardi and Justin Wright-Foreman each scored 20 points for Hofstra, there was no compensating for the injured starters, particularly Gustys, who is good for a double-double and tough defense.
Elon also received 17 points from guard Dmitri Thompson. Deron Powers had 14 for Hofstra.
Hofstra did turn a nine-point halftime deficit into a 55-51 lead with 12:21 left. The Pride trailed 62-61 before Elon (14-9, 6-4) went on an 18-6 run to get to 80-67 with 2:46 to play.
Wright-Foreman, coming off consecutive 30-point games, had some foul trouble and was 2-for-9 from three-point range. Bernardi, who scored 15 second-half points, was 3-for-10 on three-pointers.
Wright-Foreman, Ty Greer and Hunter Sabety, Gustys’ replacement, all sat longer than Mihalich would have liked because of foul trouble.
“Our margin for error was very slim with those two guys down,’’ he said of the injured starters. “You get in foul trouble, it gets even slimmer.’’
Hofstra had hoped to meet Elon at full strength.
“We lost to them last time,’’ Bernardi said of the 96-80 defeat at Elon earlier this month, “so we came out wanting to beat them. It was tough because we had less people. We had to try and find a way, but we just got to keep working.’’
Wright-Foreman added: “There’s no excuse. [Missing] one guy, two guys, three guys. We still all had to play hard, [at the] end of the day.’’
The regular season is down to its final month.
“Last year, we were the best team in the league,’’ Mihalich said, “had the best record in the league, and it was the same challenge — win three games in March. So this year it will be the same thing. Can we be good enough by March to win three games down there? And I think we can. I really do.’’