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Hofstra holds on to defeat Northeastern

Hofstra's Juan'ya Green dribbles upcourt past Northeastern's David

Hofstra's Juan'ya Green dribbles upcourt past Northeastern's David Walker during the first half at the Mack Sports Complex on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016. Credit: Lee S. Weissman

After blowing several late leads earlier this season, Hofstra has grown accustomed to hanging tough in tight games. The Pride saw an eight-point edge with 59 seconds to play dwindle to two before pulling out a 65-60 win over Northeastern on Sunday afternoon at Mack Sports Complex.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Caleb Donnelly and David Walker for the Huskies (15-14, 7-9 CAA) cut the deficit to 62-60 with 32.5 seconds left. Hofstra’s Denton Koon, who nailed a big corner three moments earlier, committed his second straight turnover against a full-court press. But freshman Desure Buie made a steal and was fouled with 20.8 seconds left. He hit both shots to extend the lead to four points before the second-place Pride (20-8, 12-4) escaped.

Koon, a graduate transfer from Princeton, led Hofstra with 19 points and added seven rebounds. He scored his team’s only two field goals of the final five minutes and also hit a pair of foul shots. Asked about the Pride’s growing comfort level in tense situations, he laughed and said, “It helps that half our team is approaching 30 years old. We’ve got some experience out there. Being in those situations before definitely helps.

“Earlier in the year, we definitely had a little problem closing out games. You learn by how you bounce back from mistakes in the final couple minutes. Adversity losing a couple tough games teaches you a lesson.”

The Pride got another big game from Rokas Gustys, who had 17 points and 16 rebounds. Juan’ya Green had 13 points and eight assists and Ameen Tanksley added 12 points.

Quincy Ford had 15 points, 14 rebounds and five assists for the Huskies. Walker added 15 points and Donnelly had 12. Northeastern made 12 of 37 three-point attempts to keep it close.

Gustys gave Hofstra a 13-point lead early in the second half, but Northeastern mounted a 17-7 charge, including 10 points from Ford, to cut its deficit to 42-39. Hofstra never let the Huskies get over the hump.

Pointing to back-to-back defeats, at home against first-place North Carolina Wilmington and in overtime at James Madison, Pride coach Joe Mihalich said, “When you have tough losses, you get tougher and realize what you have to do to win those games, which is what we did. Or you go the other way and start listening to the people who are negative. We don’t do that. We believed in ourselves, and we knew we are a good team.”

The Pride can tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association by winning its next game Thursday at UNCW. “We’re going there with a lot of energy,” Green said. “They beat us at our home, so you’re going to make the best out of it and beat them at their place and get payback.”

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