When Hofstra finished its non-conference schedule with an 8-5 record, coach Joe Mihalich said the Pride was exactly where he wanted it to be. Three weeks later, it would rather be anywhere but where it is.
Hofstra dropped its sixth straight game Thursday night, an unsightly 86-80 loss to Towson before 1,331 at Mack Sports Complex. The Pride (9-11, 1-6 Colonial Athletic Association) led by 16 in the first half but saw the Tigers (11-9, 3-4) take an 11-point lead after halftime. Hofstra recovered to regain the upper hand, only to lose it in a storm of free throws during the final three minutes.
There were 39 fouls called in the game, and Mihalich left his place in the handshake line to holler at game officials as they walked off the court. Asked afterward about that, Mihalich didn’t have much of an answer.
Hofstra keeps coming up just short. The losing streak includes an overtime loss to William & Mary and narrow losses to CAA co-leaders UNC Wilmington and Charleston.
“We’re optimistic. Other people might not be, but we’re optimistic,’’ Mihalich said. “And one of the things we have to do is block out the noise. We believe in ourselves. We feel like we’re really close. We’re on the wrong side of close, but we’re really close.”
And there is some clear frustration from the players.
“One-and-six in anything right now, that doesn’t leave us in a good place,” said Eli Pemberton, who had a career-high 26 points and shot 10-for-17, including five three-pointers. “The mentality right now for us, and it’s kind of hard to stay up and optimistic, is we have to go into this next game even harder.”
Hofstra took advantage of Towson’s foul trouble early, with Deron Powers scoring nine points in a 21-5 run that produced a 32-16 lead. But Towson scored on 11 straight possessions in the second half, and the Tigers went up 66-55 on Jordan McNeil’s three with 8:37 left.
Pemberton led the comeback with eight points in a 14-4 run. The Pride went up 73-72 when he ripped the ball away from Jamall Robinson for an offensive rebound and a putback with 2:59 to play. The Tigers scored 12 of their final 14 points on 12-for-12 free-throw shooting.
Powers had 19 points and six assists and Justin Wright-Foreman had 18 points for Hofstra. Zane Martin had 23 for Towson.
“We had enough fight to get the lead back,” Mihalich said. “We’re close. But I know close isn’t good enough.”