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Zeke Upshaw leads Hofstra past UNCW, 78-70

Hofstra's Zeke Upshaw reacts after the Pride take

Hofstra's Zeke Upshaw reacts after the Pride take their first lead with six minutes remaining in the second half of an NCAA Division I men's basketball game versus UNC Wilmington at Mack Sports Complex on Feb 8, 2014. Credit: James Escher

BALTIMORE - Zeke Upshaw led the way with 23 points, and his Hofstra teammates came up big down the stretch Friday night against UNC Wilmington.

Hofstra led for much of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament first-round game at Baltimore Arena, but the Pride couldn't put the Seahawks away until the final moments. That's when Upshaw's teammates scored the game's final nine points as the Pride earned a 78-70 victory.

Hofstra (10-22) won't have much time to celebrate; the Pride faces top-seeded Delaware (22-9) at noon Saturday in the quarterfinals. Hofstra dropped both of its regular-season games against the Blue Hens.

Chris Dixon's three-pointer gave UNCW (9-23) a 70-69 lead with 2:27 left, the Seahawks' fourth lead in the final six minutes. But just 29 seconds later, Jamall Robinson's three-point play gave the Pride the lead for good.

Stephen Nwaukoni hit a free throw with 1:33 left and Moussa Kone did the same with 45 seconds to play. Dion Nesmith hit two free throws 14 seconds later and Nwaukoni's dunk sealed it.

"They made winning basketball plays down the stretch,'' Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. "We had that refuse-to-lose mentality about us. We could've folded. We just wouldn't.''

Upshaw shot 7-for-15, including 4-for-7 from three-point range. Nesmith scored 15 points, shooting 6-for-11. Nwaukoni had 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Kone added 11 points and nine rebounds and Robinson contributed 10 points.

Hofstra's defense proved crucial in that final stretch. The Seahawks missed their final six shots from the field. "We stayed with it,'' Upshaw said. "We got some stops toward the end, some stops that we haven't been getting . . . and some good rebounds to finish those stops out.''

The Pride got six of the game's final nine rebounds and controlled the boards throughout, out-rebounding UNCW 44-29. Nineteen of the Pride's points came on second-chance opportunities.

And along with five Hofstra players scoring in double figures, the Pride's defense came through in that final stretch.

"We might have forced a couple,'' UNCW coach Buzz Peterson said. "We probably took some questionable shots, but [at that point], you've got to let it go.''

Craig Ponder had 24 points and Freddie Jackson added 16 for the Seahawks.

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