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Hofstra beats Northeastern to win CAA championship and reach NCAA Tournament for first time since 2001

Watch: Hofstra celebrates CAA Tournament title, NCAA Tournament berth

Hofstra players celebrated after winning the CAA championship on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament in the process. Credit: Hofstra Pride

WASHINGTON — Desure Buie has known more pain than any Hofstra player in the CAA tournament having twice lost in the finals.

The first loss, in 2016, didn’t sting as much since the fifth-year guard knew he had more chances. Last year’s setback to Northeastern was more personal.

This year marked the senior’s final chance to end Hofstra’s NCAA Tournament drought which dated to 2001.

And this time he did it.

Buie scored a game-high 20 points, including 10 critical points in the final four minutes, to guide Hofstra to its first Colonial Athletic Association title with a 70-61 win over Northeastern on Tuesday at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. Buie earned Most Outstanding Player honors and Eli Pemberton (19 points) and Jalen Ray (17 points) also were named to the all-tournament team.

“This is not just for me. This is for teammates, my freshman year, the dudes that have been here and done it all and the legends up on the banners, I look at that every single day,” said Buie. “I just want to be great as I can be. Tonight, it showed.”

It’s only fitting that Buie proved to be the player that ended all the frustrations that have surrounded this program since it joined the CAA. Buie became one of the Pride’s greatest players with his ability to hit jumpers and find his open teammates.

Yet, the personal accolades don’t compare to the satisfaction of getting to March Madness, which was his ultimate goal.

Hofstra found itself facing Northeastern in the final for the second straight year, but this time around, the Pride never fell too far behind in a cold shooting first half. Hofstra rallied from an eight-point deficit to trail 30-28 at halftime and then claim a 54-52 lead entering the final four minutes.

Buie calmly drained a long jumper to push Hofstra’s lead to 56-52 before stealing the ball to set up Ray who was fouled and hit two free throws to push the lead to six points.

Buie provided the dagger by driving for a basket and hitting the free throw to give Hofstra a 61-52 lead. He hit a three-pointer on Hofstra’s next possession to give Hofstra a 10-point edge.

“That’s what he does. That’s ‘big-shot’ Buie and he knows when to take them,” Pemberton said. “He’s built like that, that’s the Bronx love right there. I’m so happy for him, this is a great win for us to go out and he deserves every blessing going his way.”

Hofstra legend Speedy Claxton, now an assistant coach who guided the Pride to the NCAA Tournament in 2000, marveled at Buie’s late-game heroics that clinched Hofstra’s fifth trip to the Big Dance.

“It’s everything man. We worked hard this year man and after losing in the finals last year, to come all this way, we didn’t want to turn back,” Claxton said. “I love that kid. He’s so big for us, not just tonight but the whole year.”

As Hofstra’s players recognized in the final minute that they had that elusive title in their grasp, Mihalich pulled Buie with 18 seconds remaining. The teacher and the pupil embraced with Mihalich later saying he couldn’t formulate the right words since he was holding back tears.

“This is just euphoric,” Mihalich said. “A magical moment, why you dream.”

As his teammates, coaches and fans celebrated around him after the final buzzer, Buie held his daughter Jada in his arms while wearing a fresh CAA Champions hat. The photos taken in that moment capturing the father and his daughter will last the family a lifetime.

Buie also won’t forget what it will be like this Sunday when he can finally tune into the selection show and hear the one team he’s waited his whole career to be announced on selection Sunday: Hofstra.

“I don’t know the feeling,” Buie said, “but I can’t wait to experience it.”

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