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Hofstra loses NIT opener on jumper with 4 seconds left

Hofstra guard Juan'ya Green had 26 points and

Hofstra guard Juan'ya Green had 26 points and 10 assists in an NIT loss to George Washington on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Washington. Credit: Nick Wass

WASHINGTON — The postseason heartbreak continued for Hofstra Wednesday night.

The Pride rallied from nine points down in the final minutes to tie its NIT opener at George Washington, only to watch the Colonials’ Alex Mitola hit a jumper off one foot with four seconds left to give his team an 82-80 win at the Smith Center.

“Kid made a tough shot,” Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. “Like one of those one foot in the sand trap, one foot half out swing shots you don’t practice.”

Juan’ya Green, who led all scorers with 26 points and added 10 assists, got off a halfcourt heave as time expired. It fell short, putting a bitter coda on a season that could have ended in the NCAA Tournament if not for an overtime loss to North Carolina Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association final.

Green had 17 points and six assists after intermission.

“He was terrific. I guess I’m glad because he had kind of a clunker the other night when we lost that championship game,” Mihalich said. “If it’s any consolation, Juan’ya Green walks off the court as the best player on the floor.”

Hofstra finishes the season 24-9 while George Washington (23-10) advances to play No. 1-seeded Monmouth, which defeated Bucknell.

The Pride trailed by 12 in the second half, and 80-71 after Mitola hit a three with 2:38 left. But Justin Wright-Foreman answered from beyond the arc and the Colonials went cold. After a George Washington miss, Hofstra’s Gustys Rokas got open underneath for a layup. Next time down, Rokas drove baseline for a dunk, making it 80-78. The Colonials missed again, and Green drove the paint and tied it with 15 seconds left.

“I don’t know how we did it,” Mihalich said of the frenetic final minutes. “Almost got to watch the tape to see how we got it to the end there where we tied the game up.”

After a timeout, Mitola (who was 2-for-9 from the field) started at the top of the key, drove to his right off a screen and launched what he called a “one-footed jumper” that ended Hofstra’s fifth NIT appearance.

Denton Koon scored 19 points for the Pride, which shot 52.6 percent but hurt itself with 20 turnovers. Gustys added 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The Pride led by five midway through the first half before an 8-0 Colonials run. A Gustys layup tied the score at 33 with 4:03 left, but the Colonials went on a 13-1 run and led 49-38 at intermission.

“We let them get comfortable,” Mihalich said. “You can’t let a team on their home court get comfortable. They made shots in the first half, felt good about themselves and they were able to carry it home.”

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