WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — Hofstra came to this season with great expectations. If come March the Pride is living those out, don’t be surprised if they look back on Wednesday night as the moment it all became believable.
Hofstra shrugged off what looked like a fatal first half and a drought at a critical second-half juncture and pulled out a mind-boggling 85-84 win over Monmouth before 2,012 at OceanFirst Bank Center.
The Pride (5-3) was down 84-81 when Justin Wright-Foreman was fouled with 5.1 seconds left in the game. All on the Hofstra bench felt that the Hawks’ Austin Tilghman had fouled him in the act of a three-point shot, but the game officials said it was before the attempt and put him on the line for a one-and-one.
Wright-Foreman made the first and intentionally missed the second. The Pride’s Stafford Trueheart tapped the carom out and it was collected by freshman teammate Jalen Ray on the wing. He drained a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left for the lead. A three-point attempt by Monmouth’s Micah Seaborn at the buzzer went off the rim.
“It’s funny how those plays you work on that might never happen do happen, but we were able to execute,” Pride coach Joe Mihalich said.
So how many times does it actually work at practice? “Never,” Mihalich said.
“That was the first time,” Wright-Foreman chimed in.
Wright-Foreman had 24 points including 18 in the second-half comeback, Joel Angus III and Eli Pemberton each scored 17 points and Ray had 14 points including four three-pointers for the Pride. Seaborn scored 23 and Tilghman 14 for the Hawks (3-6).
The win was even more impressive given the places that the Pride faltered. Hofstra’s recipe for success has been a highly-effective offense with just enough defense to make it stand up. It brought neither ingredient to the first half and made the Hawks look like world beaters as they shot 63 percent from the floor including 5-for-9 on three-pointers to grab a 43-30 lead.
Monmouth was out on the floor with seven minutes until the start of the second half to warm back up. It was four more minutes before Hofstra got out to hastily hoist a few practice shots up before play restarted. The Pride had plenty to discuss at the intermission.
“We couldn’t have been more listless in the first half. It was one of our lowest moments,” Mihalich said. “The guys really responded. We appealed to their pride and integrity at halftime among other things. They decided to play the way they can.”
The Pride averages about eight three-pointers but they rained them down on the Hawks in the second half, making nine of 16. That combined with 11 Hawks turnovers allowed Hofstra back into the game. After trailing by as much as 14, a Wright-Foreman breakaway layup with 5:46 left put the Pride up 72-71.
It couldn’t, however, protect a three-point lead with 3:07 to play. During the next 2:59 Monmouth scored eight unanswered points while Hofstra had five possessions that ended with four turnovers and a missed trey.
Tilghman had a chance for three-point play and aeadur-point lead with 24 seconds left but missed the free throw. After Angus scored on a putback, Deion Hammond missed two free throws with :08 on the clock setting the table for the Pride’s incredible final possession.