The dynamic is different for Hofstra this season. After several seasons of futility, the Pride is a legitimate contender in the Colonial Athletic Association, so the games really matter now.
That's why the frustration of throwing away a six-point second-half lead was so evident when Moussa Kone drew a critical second-half technical and in coach Joe Mihalich's tart postgame demeanor after a 79-74 loss to North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday afternoon at Mack Sports Complex.
It was a game Hofstra (13-6, 4-2 CAA) led for nearly 26 minutes and probably should have won. But the Pride allowed 46 second-half points by UNCW (9-8, 4-2) and blew a 69-63 lead in the final 5:41.
"You get what you deserve, and we didn't deserve to win," Mihalich said. "I thought we defended in the first half and we obviously did not defend in the second half. We came out soft at the start of the second half. That's the way we let them [back in the game].
"We turned a lead into a nip-and-tuck game down the stretch. The last five minutes of the game, they made plays and we didn't."
The stat that jumped off the scoresheet was a 40-18 advantage in points in the paint by the Seahawks, who shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, including 4-for-6 from three-point range.
Addison Spruill (23 points) and Freddie Jackson (21) got to the rim and hit midrange jumpers. They received inside support from big man C.J. Gettys (10 points) and got 17 points from guard Jordan Talley.
Hofstra had five double-figure scorers: Ameen Tanksley (19 points, eight rebounds), Juan'ya Green (14 points), Kone (14 points, 5-for-5 shooting, seven rebounds), Malik Nichols (11 points, 3-for-3 shooting) and Dion Nesmith (11 points). But the Pride went cold from three-point range, shooting 6-for-21, and got poor shooting games from Green (2-for-11) and Brian Berardi (1-for-6).
They couldn't maintain a strong defensive presence inside because Rokas Gustys drew five fouls in only 11 minutes and Kone had to be careful after picking up his third with 8:31 left and his fourth on the subsequent technical when he slapped the ball out of Talley's hands.
"My emotions got to me when I got that foul," Kone said of the initial call when he fouled Talley. "It wasn't intentional, but . . . "
"The technical was bad," Mihalich said. "Moussa knows you can't do that. That was one of the turning points of the game."
Talley hit three of four foul shots to put the Seahawks ahead 59-58. Green and Nesmith each had four points as Hofstra produced an 11-4 run for a 69-63 lead. But the illusion of control disappeared quickly.
Gustys picked up his fifth with 6:13 left, and after the Pride built the six-point lead, they missed three three-point attempts on their next possession and followed that with two turnovers and a missed layup on the next three possessions. Talley's three-pointer with 1:27 left gave UNCW the lead for good at 72-70.
Asked how the loss of Gustys hurt, Kone said: "It hurts. When I was out, it hurt the team as well. You have to learn not to pick up fouls, same as me. It was just a bad defensive game for us in the paint. We gave up too many easy baskets -- bigs and guards. We have to play better collective defense."