It was both a tribute to how good a season Hofstra is having and a signal of how hard it will be to finish it off with a title, with an emphasis on the former. At the end of a long, tough night and two overtimes, the Pride showed their first-place mettle.
After trailing much of the way and struggling from start to finish, Hofstra beat Towson, 91-82, to strengthen its hold on the top spot in the Colonial Athletic Association and extend its home winning streak to 18 games over two seasons.
“This team is full of fighters. We just want to win at all costs. The dog just came out of all of us,” said Justin Wright-Foreman, whose 28 points included a jumper early in the second overtime that gave the Pride a four-point lead and an emphatic dunk with 39 seconds left that finished off a 9-0 second overtime.
Jacquil Taylor added 14 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks against a feisty, physical team.
It was a scare for Hofstra (23-5, 13-2), which knows it will have its hands full in the conference tournament. But it also knows it has the ability to dig down, rebound from a 10-point second-half deficit and win a taut game.
“It just shows a true testament to all of our characters,” Taylor said. “We just want to win at the end of the day. With how bad we started and how bad we played throughout the whole game, we still found a way to win. It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win.”
The players and coach Joe Mihalich also credited sixth man Jalen Ray, who had 17 points and sparked a defense that had some rough spots, and point guard Desure Buie, who had 16 points, nine assists and a huge steal that helped the Pride take the lead with 1:35 left in regulation.
Towson (10-18, 6-9), tied for fifth in the conference at the start of the night, kept coming back, though. It got 29 points from Brian Fobbs and 14 from Solomon Uyaelunmo, who had been averaging only 4.7.
The Pride know they can expect surprises like that in the CAA Tournament, but they also know they have what their coach calls “these qualities.”
Said Mihalich, “We were down nine with seven minutes to go and in the huddle we were talking about how we were down nine against Northeastern with four minutes to go. We just find a way.”
On Saturday, Hofstra will find a way to salute Wright-Foreman and his classmates on Senior Day. The guard, who on Thursday took over fifth place on the school’s career scoring list, said, “It’s going to be very emotional for all of us, for me especially, because I was here for four years. Everybody just welcomed me with open arms and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.”
“It’s a bittersweet day,” Mihalich said. “You’re so proud of what they’ve done and you’ll be choking back tears watching these guys walk out on the court for the last time.”