BALTIMORE - Hofstra traded punches with top-seeded William & Mary for 50 minutes during their extraordinary double-overtime semifinal in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament on Sunday at Royal Farms Arena. Naturally, it was the one the Pride didn't see coming that floored them.
With the Tribe trailing fifth-seeded Hofstra by two points with eight seconds left in the second overtime, CAA player of the year Marcus Thornton, who set a tournament single-game scoring record with 37 points, dribbled upcourt, looking for his shot. Thornton -- who had missed five straight as fatigue set in, including a three-pointer at the end of the first overtime -- went up in the air as if to shoot but then found an open Daniel Dixon in the corner and let fate take its course.
Dixon's three-pointer with eight-tenths of a second left gave the Tribe a 92-91 victory. Juan'ya Green, who led Hofstra (20-13) with 26 points, doubled over and dropped to his knees as if punched in the gut.
"In the huddle, we told everybody not to help off," Green said. "We were trying to make him drive, and he [passed] for a wide-open shot. There was nothing we could do."
Thornton and teammate Omar Prewitt, who had 33 points, became the first teammates in tournament history to top 30 in the same game. But they were exhausted. With 2:07 left in the second OT, Prewitt missed two foul shots with a two-point lead. The Pride's Brian Bernardi (17 points) made a pair to tie the score at 87.
Terry Tarpey's layup put the Tribe (20-11) ahead again, but Green responded with a go-ahead three. Then Thornton missed a jumper and Hofstra senior Moussa Kone (11 points) was fouled with 8.3 seconds left. He missed the first but made the second for a two-point lead -- one too few, as it turned out.
Kone had company in his misery. Dion Nesmith (21 points) missed the front end of a one-and-one with 29.6 seconds left in regulation and a two-point lead. With 10 seconds left in the first OT and the score tied, the Pride's Rokas Gustys (eight points, nine rebounds) missed two foul shots. Hofstra made only 13 of 25 free throws.
"There's a lot of emotional guys in that locker room," Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. "You knew with a millisecond left, somebody was going home with a broken heart today. Unfortunately, it's us.
"It's hard to stand in front of them and help them realize how proud you are when their hearts are broken and the dream of going to the NCAA Tournament is over for Dion and Moussa. In the end, it came down to one shot."
Hofstra certainly didn't lack for effort, holding an edge in rebounding (41-37), points in the paint (38-24), points off turnovers (23-11), second-chance points (22-5), fast-break points (8-0) and bench points (12-2). But foul trouble hurt Hofstra, which lost Nesmith and Gustys in overtime.
Just when it seemed Hofstra finally had Thornton worn down at the end, he found the open man. "We had a play set," Thornton said, meaning for himself. "When they contested it, I saw him open. I have great confidence in him."
Said Dixon: "It was big for him to give it up at the end. He just trusted me."
Hofstra is left to trust the experience of winning 20 games, and playing well in the CAA Tournament will help next season. "We're playing for championships now," Mihalich said. "We ain't going anywhere. As much as this hurts, it's an experience that will make these guys better, stronger, tougher and more motivated."
But first the Pride needs time to let the pain subside.