Hofstra was in full upset mode Saturday and seemed poised to end LIU Brooklyn's long winning streak at the Wellness Center. How significant a big win would have been as the team tries to heal after last week's suspension of four players who were arrested on charges of burglarizing laptops and other electronic devices from dorms on the Hempstead campus.
But a 16-point lead with 12:01 left evaporated into an 88-84 loss, and the Pride (3-7) had to settle for a nice try on the road against the Blackbirds (3-4). LIU Brooklyn has won 30 straight on its home court since Dec. 8, 2010.
"We're going to take all positives from it,'' said Hofstra sophomore guard Taran Buie, who scored a career-high 29 points. "We don't have any room to be taking any negatives with us. Obviously, we've got some guys off the team now, so we're just trying to find ways to win games.''
It all came down to two key sequences late in the game. After LIU's Jason Brickman hit two free throws with 1:07 left, Hofstra led 80-78. The Pride lost the ball and Brickman threw an alley-oop pass to 6-7 Julian Boyd, who smashed it through the cylinder and was fouled. His three-point play gave LIU its first lead of the half at 81-80. "It got us pumped up,'' Boyd said.
Buie sank a jumper to give Hofstra an 82-81 lead with 49 seconds left, but LIU's Booker Hucks (Bay Shore) hit a three-pointer with 40 seconds to play, and LIU was on its way.
Hucks, playing in his first game of the season after battling injuries, hit both of his three-point attempts in 10 minutes. "The biggest play of the game was obviously Hucks' three-pointer,'' Boyd said. "Thankfully, we have him back.''
Hucks said his only thought on the second three-pointer was "knock it down.'' He said he would discuss the game with Hofstra's Jordan Allen, a redshirt freshman from Bay Shore, when they rode home together after the game.
Hofstra coach Mo Cassara said he wouldn't view the game as a total loss. Stephen Nwaukoni had a nice game with 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Point guard Stevie Mejia, who fouled out with 2:35 left, had 13 points and hit all seven free throws, but the Pride shot only 19-for-33 from the line. David Imes had nine points and freshman Darren Payen, who was supposed to be a redshirt this season, had seven.
"I would say a tough ending,'' Cassara said. "There was a stretch of time in the second half when we played as well as we can play, we moved the ball, we executed, we rebounded, made free throws, did all the little things we had to do to get a lead against a very good team. They won 29 in a row here for a reason: They are a good team.''
Make that 30.