Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pride Fall to the Rams

The last time I was in Rhode Island for a Hofstra basketball game was eight years ago when the Pride traveled to Providence to take on the Friars.  How long ago was that?  NBA player Ryan Gomes was still in college, playing for the home team.  Meanwhile Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera were freshmen playing their third games for Hofstra.  The Friars defeated the Pride 69-56 in a game that wasn’t really indicative of how dominant Providence was in the second half of the game.

So here I was sitting behind the Hofstra bench hoping for a much better result at the Ryan Center last evening.  After barely anyone showed up for the first game between Cleveland State and Boston University (they missed a really great, wild ending), the crowd filled in for their hometown Rams.  Having suffered some close losses, Rhode Island was 0-3 and looking for their first win of the season.  Meanwhile, Hofstra was looking to bounce back from a tough two point loss at home to Florida Atlantic.

The game was also very important to one Steve Mejia.  Mejia played his first two seasons at Rhode Island before transferring to Hofstra and sitting out a year.  He had played his best game of the season against Florida Atlantic, scoring fourteen points.  There was no doubt Mejia wanted to play well here, especially when the Rhody faithful booed his name every time it was announced during the game.

The start of the game did not go well for the Pride.  The very long, very athletic Rams came out in a full court press and that seemed to bother Hofstra to no end.  Rhode Island forced several turnovers in the backcourt.   As a result, the Rams jumped out to a 27-9 lead ten minutes into the game.  Jonathan Holton, a six foot nine inch freshman who looked like he should be playing for North Carolina, scored fourteen of those first twenty seven points for Rhode Island.

The lead had swollen to nineteen, 37-18 with about eight minutes left in the first half and it looked like the Pride were going to get blown out of the Ryan Center.  But as this Pride team has shown early on in the season, it has a lot of talent and heart.  And one Hofstra player decided to go on his own run.   Mike Moore scored twelve straight points over the next couple of minutes.  Suddenly it was a game, 37-30 with a little less than five minutes left in the half.

The Pride cut the lead even further to four on a three pointer by, whom else, Moore.  But the Rams got a basket from Nikola Malesevic and the score was 45-39 at the half.   All things considered, for Hofstra to only be down six at the half was a moral victory.  They were very much now in this game.

The halftime entertainment consisted of a very unique version of musical chairs.  Several people dribbled around the chairs.  When the music stopped, they had to go hit a layup, then dribble back and sit in the chair.  I thought it was a pretty neat game and Hofstra should try that at their games in the future.

The second half saw the teams go back and forth.  Every time it looked like Rhode Island would pull away, Hofstra would come back and keep the deficit within four to five points.  Moore was getting help from his usual dynamic duo partner, Nathaniel Lester.  But he was also getting help from a new source.

Bryant Crowder was playing in his first ever game for the Pride and the six foot ten athletic forward felt right at home in this game.  He showed his leaping ability with two monster dunks, plus showed energy and a nice touch around the basket. Between Moore, Lester and Crowder, the Pride kept the game close.

After Moore hit two free throws, the Pride had got within three points, 61-58, their closest margin since five minutes into the first half.  But over the next six minutes, the Pride could get no closer than that.  However, after a layup by Crowder, the score was still within reach at 74-69 with just about four minutes left.

But Hofstra would not get any closer.   Senior Jamal Wilson, who entered the game averaging twenty points per game, was huge down the stretch from Rhode Island with his all around play.  He scored five points, including a huge jumper to put the Rams up nine, 80-71 that basically sealed the game for Rhode Island.    The Rams would end up winning 85-73.  Holton lead URI with twenty points, while Malasevic added eighteen points and Wilson had fifteen points.

For the Pride, Moore had another fine game leading all scorers with twenty five points.  Lester added twenty two points and Crowder, in his first ever box score had thirteen for Hofstra.  The Pride shot 20 of 25 from the line but had way too many turnovers, seventeen as compared to eleven assists.

For Hofstra, there are still two games to play in this “tournament”.  Today the Pride face undefeated Cleveland State and tomorrow it's Hofstra vs. Boston University.  They can still leave Rhode Island on a high note.

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