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.”