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Justin Wright-Foreman forces overtime with three-pointer, then lifts Hofstra to win

Hofstra's Justin Wright-Foreman works the ball against James

Hofstra's Justin Wright-Foreman works the ball against James Madison on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, at thje Mack Sports Complex. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Anyone who watches Hof stra play knows that Justin Wright-Foreman makes the sport seem effortless. He is such a smooth shooter and prolific scorer that he looks like a natural. So it was impressive that he showed he can be just as productive and decisive on a night when he struggled.

James Madison defended him as well as anyone has since he emerged last season as the Pride’s proverbial go-to guy, and still he surpassed his scoring average. He hit the tying three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in regulation and scored eight more points in overtime of an 87-81 victory Friday night at Mack Sports Complex — a game that was way above average for Hofstra.

“That was a fabulous win,” coach Joe Mihalich said. “The reason why was we should have lost. That game had loss written all over it and we found a way to win.”

Without taking anything away from standout performances by teammates, such as senior Rokas Gustys reaching the 1,000-point mark and grabbing 18 rebounds and freshman Jalen Ray playing clutch minutes and scoring 18 points, the Pride won because Wright-Foreman, with 26 points, would not let them lose.

He was upstaged and outscored by James Madison’s Stuckey Mosley (37 points) most of the night. On top of that, Wright-Foreman rarely broke free enough to get off a shot in the first half, as he attempted three and made two.

“The frustration was really with myself,” said the junior, who entered the week fourth in the country with a 24.3 scoring average. “I wasn’t really hitting shots in the beginning, but I realized that was kind of selfish of me. So I just tried to pick myself up and be more positive about the situation. The shots are going to fall.”

After a timeout with 3.9 seconds left in regulation and the Pride down by three, it was no secret where the ball was going. Wright-Foreman came off a screen from Matija Radovic and nailed a three-pointer — Hof stra’s first field goal after a drought of 5 minutes, 27 seconds.

“Coach did a great job of drawing up a play. We work on it every day in practice. It works here and there, but in a game . . . It paid off to our advantage,” said Wright-Foreman, who made a stellar feed to set up Gustys’ 999th and 1,000th points on a layup with 7:09 left.

Gustys, who became the third Hofstra player to amass 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds (following Bill Thieben and John Irving), said: “We trust him. Everybody knows the ball is going to be in Justin’s hands. We believe in him.”

Hofstra (9-6, 2-1 in the CAA) believes in itself after a handful of dramatic successes. “There’s a lot of things we were bad at,” Mihalich said, “but I tell you what we were good at: Finding a way to win a game that we should have lost.”

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