As I walked back from the shipyard past the Marriott where the Hofstra team was staying, an older gentleman came up to his wife by the dock and said "The Hofstra University basketball team was having a team meeting in one of the rooms...". I didn't hear the end of the conversation, but I smiled as I made my way back to town. It was nice to hear your home team making an impression on someone in Newport.
When I watched Cleveland State play Boston University in the first game on Friday afternoon, I could see why the Vikings knocked off Vanderbilt and Kent State. They play an aggressive man to man defense and every shot, pass and move are contested. Watching two rows from the court yesterday, I can honestly tell you that Cleveland State is literally in your face. They are literally on their man and it creates a very intense atmosphere. You need to bring your lunch and be up to the task of playing them.
However, the Pride found another scoring option in the first half and it came from an unlikely source. Reserve sophomore forward Stephen Nwaukoni came off the bench and sparked Hofstra with eight points, several of which came from offensive rebounds. Nwaukoni had a career high with twelve points on the game.
Hofstra came out and took its biggest lead of the game at that time, 33-29 on two layups by Lester and Steve Mejia. But the Vikings came back with a 13-4 run and took their largest lead of the game, 42-37 as Brown, their leading scorer on the season, scored the last two points of the run on a layup.
The Vikings were frustrated on offense, as the Pride held them to 37.5 percent shooting on the field. And when Cleveland State missed, Hofstra cleaned up on the glass. In the second half, the Pride outrebounded the Vikings 20-8. Cleveland State had only two offensive rebounds in the last twenty minutes of the game.
The bench came up huge for Hofstra. Besides Nwaukoni's career high twelve points, McMillan matched him with twelve points and Crowder added eight. The Pride Bench outscored the Vikings bench 32-14. Lester and Mejia each had ten points. Moore was held to five points overall, fifteen less than his season average. Hofstra shot 51 percent for the game, including 57 percent in the second half.
After a tough loss against the Rams on their home court, the Pride rebounded with their best effort of the season against a team many think could be the favorite to win the Horizon League. And they did it in large part on the defensive end. Hofstra truly beat Cleveland State at its own game yesterday.