Justin Wright-Foreman thought he’d done everything wrong until he saw he’d done everything right.
He took an inbounds pass in the right corner from Deron Powers with 24.3 seconds left and Hofstra down two to Drexel. He made contact with defender John Moran on a jab step and Moran tumbled backward before Wright-Foreman’s drained a three-pointer for the Pride’s first lead of the second half.
That basket with 20 seconds left was the biggest in a hard-to-fathom comeback. Hofstra scored 12 unanswered points in the final 57 seconds for a dizzying 79-77 Colonial Athletic Association victory before 2,819 at Mack Sports Complex Saturday night.
“I’ve taken big shots, but nothing like that,” Wright-Forman said. “I thought I was going to get called for a charge the way the game was going. When he flopped, I had a clean look.”
The Pride (12-13, 4-8) needed a 110-percent output — and a couple breaks — to pull off this one in the wild final minute. Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said, “it wasn’t a miracle, but it might have been close to that.”
Drexel (8-17, 2-10) got two final chances to lead or tie. Kari Jonsson missed a jumper with about six seconds left and, after Eli Pemberton was fouled and made one of two free throws, Rodney Williams was well off the mark on a half-court heave.
After a pair of 20-win seasons the Pride wanted this to be anything but a rebuilding season. And after Williams (26 points) dunked with 1:15 to play for a 77-67 Drexel lead, Hofstra played like it.
“Now they have a reason to believe,” Mihalich said. “There’s no way to win that game unless you do something special.”
Wright-Foreman had 20 points and four assists, Powers had 20 points and six assists, and Pemberton scored 16 for the Pride. Williams scored 26 and Kurk Lee 19 for the Dragons.
The rally started with Pemberton and Brian Bernardi making three-pointers around a Drexel miss to cut it to four. Lee was fouled with 30 seconds left and missed both free throws — Hofstra’s first break. Powers was fouled and made two free throws with 24.3 seconds left.
The Pride’s second break came next when Lee was called for an offensive foul on the inbounds play. That set the table for Powers to find Wright-Foreman.
He was a role player last season who averaged 1.6 points and Wright-Foreman didn’t even crack the starting lineup until a month ago. Now he leads Hofstra with a 15.9-point average.
Mihalich said after the final game last season, a crushing NIT loss after a 24-win campaign, Wright-Foreman and reserve Desure Buie called assistant coach Speedy Claxton with a request for a workout the next day.
“With him this season? I think it all started right there,” Mihalich said.
Despite losing Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, Mihalich expected the Pride to finish in the top half of the 10-team CAA. They hadn’t played well, but now have won three of five. Asked if this season still can bring something special, he responded “it’s three days in March,” referring to the conference tournament.
This has to be the start of something if that’s going to be possible. Hofstra is in eighth place and needs to pick up two games to get the sixth-place quarterfinal bye. If not, it’s going to need four good days in March.
“I’m not even thinking about that,” Mihalich said.