It would be fair to say that Hofstra scored a big win Tuesday night, probably their best of the season. Fair, but maybe understating it a bit. The way that coach Joe Mihalich saw things, it was better than just one solid victory: “I felt we won the game twice.”
The visiting Pride had a solid lead on Columbia most of the game and just about all of the second half. Then the Lions put on a press, completely wiped out Hofstra’s 12-point edge and actually took a one-point lead with 2:07 left. That was when Hofstra pushed it into another gear, again, especially on defense as Eli Pemberton blocked CJ Davis’ shot with five seconds left, sending the Pride home with an 88-86 decision.
“To their credit, they just wouldn’t go away,” Mihalich said of the Lions. “They can really shoot the ball, they made some tough shots. We just had kind of a toughness to us when we had to. I don’t know, without sounding corny, it was that will to win. These guys just wouldn’t let that loss happen to them.”
Hofstra (5-3) had to be flexible and adaptable because big man Rokas Gustys, who entered the night leading the nation in rebounding, played only 13 minutes and fouled out with 4:41 left.
So the Pride played small and came up big. It never did allow a point after Northport’s Luke Petrasek hit a three-pointer with 2:07 left, giving him a game-high 27 points and putting Columbia ahead by one. Hofstra regained its poise.
Pemberton hit two free throws for an 87-86 lead. Junior college transfer Ty Greer, who had 16 points, drew a charge on the Lions’ Nate Hickman (who had 18 of his 21 points in the second half) with 32.8 seconds left. Deron Powers (15 points) sank a free throw with 2.4 seconds left. The whole team stifled Petrasek and Hickman on the final possession, leaving Davis to take the big shot. “I know he wasn’t their first option,” Mihalich said.
Brian Bernardi, who led the Pride with 21 points, said that even during the run by Columbia (3-3), “I don’t think we were worried. We huddled up. We all got locked in.”
No one was more locked in and pumped up than Jamall Robinson, who redshirted last year after having been a starter three seasons ago. He played an active and effective all-around game and hit four three-pointers for 12 points.
“It feels great to be out there,” Robinson said. “This is like family. I’d do anything for my teammates.
All of his teammates did just enough of everything to win; twice.