Hofstra guard Tyler Thomas (23) drives on Northeastern guard Jahmyl...

Hofstra guard Tyler Thomas (23) drives on Northeastern guard Jahmyl Telfort (11) on Feb. 25, 2023 Credit: Lee S. Weissman/Lee S. Weissman

The scoring ability is undeniable and the passion for playing defense is rare. However, the one quality that may distinguish the Hofstra men’s basketball team from the rest of its rivals in the Colonial Athletic Association is its relentlessness in pursuit of a championship.

The Pride grabbed first place and the lead in the race for the top seed in the conference tournament when they shocked CAA frontrunner Charleston on Jan. 28 and the Cougars lost to Drexel in their next game.

“Right after we beat Charleston . . . I told these guys, ‘Listen, we’re in the driver’s seat — if Charleston messes up and loses one game, it’s our league,’ ” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “Give these kids credit, there was no looking back. [When] Charleston lost to Drexel, it was full steam ahead. There was no let-up. We knew what was at stake [and] we had tunnel vision.”

Hofstra closed the regular season with 11 straight wins, including an 84-52 victory over visiting Northeastern on Saturday at Mack Sports Complex.

Hofstra (23-8, 16-2) will share the regular-season title with Charleston, but because of its victory in South Carolina, it will be the No. 1 seed when the CAA Tournament begins Friday in Washington, D.C.

Hofstra has a bye into the quarterfinal round and will play at noon on March 5 against the winner of Saturday’s matchup between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. If they can win three games in three days, the Pride will clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Hofstra has won or shared the regular-season championship and earned the No. 1 seed four times and in three of the past five seasons. However, it knows too well that the top seed assures nothing.

Its only CAA Tournament title came in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re going to be focused and we’re going to go down to D.C. and hopefully win three games in three days,” Claxton said. “Three games in three days is going to be [tough], but we’re going to be ready to go.”

Hofstra received contributions from virtually all of its players in the regular rotation on Saturday.

Tyler Thomas scored 23 points, Warren Williams had 19 points and nine rebounds off the bench and Aaron Estrada had 16 points and five assists. Jaquan Carlos added eight assists, German Plotnikov had nine points and three steals and Nelson Boachie-Yiadom had three blocks.

It all came together in a 27-4 run that bridged the two halves, turning a close game into a rout.

Northeastern (10-19, 6-12) grabbed a 21-20 lead on a jumper by Chase Cormier (12 points) before Williams scored on a hook shot through traffic to ignite the run.

Plotnikov’s steal led to a layup by Estrada in the 18-4 run that ended the first half. Hofstra scored the first nine points of the second half, capped by Williams’ dunk for a 47-25 lead.

The Pride opened a 78-44 lead before Claxton began substituting.

“We’ve got a special group of guys . . . I’ve never been a part of a team that’s like so close,” Thomas said. “No one is out there being selfish. We just want to hoop. We just want to win.”

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