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Hofstra embraces its 12-game win streak ahead of UNC-Wilmington game Thursday

Hofstra guard Eli Pemberton draws a foul against

Hofstra guard Eli Pemberton draws a foul against Delaware guard Kevin Anderson in the second half at Mack Sports Complex on Dec. 28, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Although they have much bigger goals, the Hofstra men’s basketball team isn’t afraid to admit that the last month and a half has been a blast.  And what’s not to love? The Pride have won 12 games in a row, are 5-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association, and have a legitimate chance at their first NCAA tournament bid since 2001.

While all that NCAA talk can wait a few weeks, the streak is in the here and now and Hofstra (15-3) has owned every inch of it.

“We might as well talk about it, rather than let it be the elephant in the room. Everyone else is talking about it,” coach Joe Mihalich said.  “My philosophy is talk about it, enjoy it, embrace it, and have fun with it.”

The streak is tied for the third longest in program history. Hofstra won 23 straight games from 1959-60 to 1960-61. They won 18 straight in 2000-2001. They also won 12 straight in 1955-56.

The current streak entered the week as the third-longest in the nation this year. Michigan led with 17 straight wins.

“I think the streak helps us because it makes us work harder and we know that we’re going to get every team’s best,” guard Eli Pemberton said. “We have to go even harder. I think that streak has given us a little more push and has made us work harder on and off the court to make sure that, with those teams that are going to give us their best, our best has to be better.”

The Pride’s next foe, UNC-Wilmington, will look to halt the streak Thursday night at the Mack Sports Complex.

The Seahawks know a thing or two about spoiling the Pride’s plans. They knocked Hofstra out of the CAA tournament semifinals last season.

It’s a game that’s stuck in the proverbial craw of guard Desure Buie.

“This Thursday is definitely payback,” Buie said. “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. It definitely has that revenge mentality.”

Although it’s been a bit of a down year so far for UNC-Wilmington (7-11, 3-2 CAA), Hofstra still must contend with dangerous big-man Devontae Cacok. Entering the week, Cacok ranked fifth in the country in rebounds per game (11.7) and is particularly dangerous on the offensive glass, averaging 4.1 rebounds per game on that end of the floor.

“You have to box him out,” Pemberton said. “He’s a monster up in there.”

But, Hofstra has their own "watch out" player. Justin Wright-Foreman entered the week as the country’s third-leading scorer, averaging 26.9 points per game. Wright-Foreman is the sparkplug in an offense with multiple options and is dangerous from all parts of the floor.

“Sometimes, we’re in a slump and he’ll just come and make a hero play and you’ll just think ‘Wow, here we go’,” Buie said.

Hofstra players, as well as Mihalich, raved about the team’s chemistry on and off the floor and counted it as a major reason why they haven’t lost since Nov. 24 at VCU, in overtime.

“The key has been our brotherhood,” Wright-Forman said. “…We have great leaders on this team. It doesn’t matter who it comes from.”

Will that chemistry lead to a CAA tournament championship and an NCAA tournament berth? Only time will tell. All Hofstra can do about it is keep on winning.

“That’s something that we definitely talk about,” Wright-Foreman said of March Madness. “But, we all know as players how hard it is to get there… We just try to lead and keep leading and hopefully it leads to there, because we haven’t been there since 2001. So, we’re just trying to bring that winning culture back.”

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