Juan’ya Green sat with his head down, occasionally shaking it. Rokas Gustys wore a 1,000-yard stare that went past everyone at the postgame news conference. For the Hofstra players, there was no mistaking that a big opportunity had gotten away.
In the Colonial Athletic Association’s preseason poll, the totals had the Pride men’s basketball team as the favorite and James Madison right behind despite garnering more first-place votes. And when they met Saturday at Mack Sports Complex, that proved to be a forecast that would make any weatherman jealous. The contest required two halves plus overtime and had 14 lead changes and 11 ties.
James Madison eked out an 86-82 win before 1,687 and prevented Hofstra from taking sole possession of first place. Instead, the Pride (12-6, 4-2) and the Dukes (14-5, 4-2) are in a six-way tie for the top slot in the 10-team conference.
“It kind of stings,” Pride coach Joe Mihalich said. “You get the win and you’re in first place by yourself. It didn’t happen. We have to deal with that and we have to own it.”
Gustys, a 6-9 sophomore center, turned in a spectacular performance. He shot 9-for-10 and scored 25 points to go with 20 rebounds. He is the first player with at least 20 of each since David Taylor had 25 points and 20 rebounds against Wagner in 1982.
“It’s good to have those numbers,’’ Gustys said, “but I’d rather have 10 points and 10 rebounds and we win the game.”
While Gustys lived up to his nickname of “Rock,” the rest of the Pride threw up bricks. The other four starters went 16-for-61 from the floor. When Hofstra couldn’t get key stops, its poor shooting proved its undoing.
After trailing the entire first half, Hofstra had its biggest lead — 65-59 — with 4:50 left in regulation. The Dukes scored on six straight possessions for an 11-2 run before Hofstra got it to overtime when Denton Koon tipped in Green’s miss with seven seconds left.
Hofstra took its only lead of the extra period when Gustys hit a layup with 2:48 left for a 79-77 lead, but JMU scored the next seven points.
Hofstra was down 81-79 when the Dukes’ Yohanny Dalembert missed a layup, but teammate Ron Curry tapped it out and Jackson Kent recovered to retain possession. Another stop might have given the Pride the ball with time running out, but Mihalich went to a fouling strategy and JMU was 5-for-6 from the line in the last 25 seconds.
Green had 17 points and nine assists for Hofstra. Brian Bernardi had 12 points but shot only 3-for-15. Ameen Tanksley had 11 points, shooting 4-for-20.
Shakir Brown had 22 points and Dalembert 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Dukes.
“Even if we had won the game, this is going to be a marathon and not a sprint . . . It’s going to come down to three days in March,” Mihalich said, referring to the conference tournament. “We didn’t shoot the ball tonight, and if there’s anything we can do, it’s shoot.
“Why? I don’t know.”