Coming off their most impressive victory of the season on Saturday at No. 24 Arkansas, the possibility of a letdown performance entering its final game before the holiday break was certainly at play for the Hofstra men’s basketball team on Wednesday night.
And while a major swing in the second half nearly produced exactly that result, the Pride ultimately managed to prevail again.
Jalen Ray notched 19 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Omar Silverio added 15 points, four rebounds and four assists as Hofstra came away with a narrow 77-71 victory over Monmouth in its final non-conference game of the season.
"We definitely didn’t want to come in here and have a letdown," Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. "That was a huge win beating Arkansas. This team could’ve easily looked down on the opponent and that was one of the things we stressed to the guys like, ‘Listen, it doesn’t matter who we play. The toughness, energy and effort have to be their every night. And they did that."
Hofstra improved to 8-5 overall, while Monmouth fell to 10-3.'
Despite leading by 18 points on multiple occasions, the Pride’s lead disintegrated in the second half, as the Hawks utilized a late run to draw to within 75-71 after Walker Miller’s three-pointer from the right wing with 49.5 seconds remaining. Miller finished with a game-high 26 points.
After Silverio missed a shot on the ensuing possession, Monmouth's George Papas misfired on an open three-point attempt of his own with 13 seconds left. Hofstra closed out the win thanks to a pair of free throws from Darlinstone Dubar (15 points) five seconds later.
"We had some big minutes from guys off the bench," Claxton said of Hofstra’s ability to hang on late. "Overall it was a great team effort."
Silverio's layup pushed Hofstra ahead by 18 for the second time with 11:54 remaining, but two free throws from Shavar Reynolds capped a 12-2 run by Monmouth with 6:55 to go, bringing the Hawks to within single digits at 67-59.
Hofstra’s lead shrunk to as little as three after Miller's emphatic dunk for a three-point play with 2:53 left. The Pride held on from there, however.
Ray began the night connecting on his first three three--point attempts, and gave the Pride a 24-14 lead with 11:27 left in the first half after hitting one from the right corner.
He went 4-for-6 from deep in the opening 20 minutes and led the way with 16 points. The Pride began the game shooting 8-for-18 from beyond the arc (44.4%), converting seven of their first 14 attempts yet finishing 11 of 31 overall.
Monmouth shot only 32.1% from three while both sides shot just under 42% for the night.
Silverio, who scored 10 points in the first half, converted a layup at the 5:46 mark to give Hofstra an 18-point lead — its largest before the break.
Monmouth cut the Hofstra advantage to 10 with 3:02 left on a layup by Samuel Chaput. A pair of free throws from Ray with 1:23 left extended the Pride’s lead to 46-34 entering halftime.