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Hofstra wilts in second half in loss to James Madison

Hofstra guard Deron Powers (2) dribbles on James

Hofstra guard Deron Powers (2) dribbles on James Madison guard Joey McLean (4) during the first half of a game on Jan. 5, 2017. Credit: Lee S Weissman

This was supposed to be the night Hofstra men’s basketball proved its mettle. Coming off a gut-churning overtime loss to William & Mary and facing a James Madison team that beat them twice in overtime last year, they were supposed to be motivated, fired up, and even a little bit angry.

Instead, they were embarrassed.

“I’ll be thinking all night” about how to bounce back, coach Joe Mihalich said. “I wish I could say, this is what we’re going to do. I don’t know . . . The players are going to have to decide they don’t like this. I know how I feel. My only prayer for the night is that they feel the same as me, that they’re as angry as I am, as frustrated as I am and they want to do something about it.”

After fighting to tie the game at halftime, the Pride shot a woeful 28 percent in the second half and collapsed against the Dukes, dropping the CAA game, 62-54, at the Mack Sports Complex Thursday night. Justin Wright-Foreman scored a game-high 25 points, and Rokas Gustys had 12 rebounds to go with five points, but it was hardly enough to undo a James Madison team that was bigger, stronger, more physical and apparently more inspired.

Paulius Satkus led James Madison with 13 points in a well-balanced effort; Jackson Kent had 11 points and five rebounds. The loss couldn’t have come at a worse time for Hofstra, which plays its next three on the road — a trip that will send the Pride to Charleston, Elon and UNCW in the span of a week.

“Toughness, we didn’t have it tonight,” Wright-Foreman said. “It’s fixable, we just have to practice . . . We were just playing basketball and the next thing you know, the rebounds coming off, we’re not getting them, the 50-50 balls, we’re not getting them.”

The Dukes led by as many as 10 with 5:53 in the first half before Hofstra went on an 11-2 run, keyed by Eli Pemberton, whose three with 2:33 left and his layup 30 seconds later drew the Pride to within 27-26. Then, with Hofstra down by three with 10 seconds left in the half, James Madison’s Joey McLean missed a three-point attempt and Gustyas muscled in for the rebound. That set up Deron Powers, who took a feed from Wright-Foreman, pulled up at the top of the key, and made a three a second before the buzzer to tie it at 33.

That momentum would all but disappear once play started up again.

Clinging to a 40-39 lead early in the second half, James Madison rattled off seven straight points and more or less cruised after that. With three starters 6-7 and over, and six players that size on the team overall, they dominated inside, outscoring the Pride 32-16 in the paint, and out-rebounding them 35-26.

“In general when you talk about that game [against William & Mary], that game should have made us play harder, be tougher, play with more intensity, play angry,” Mihalich said. “It’s disappointing. I’m embarrassed . . . I’m just incredibly disappointed with our lack of toughness tonight.”


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