The most frustrating thing to all this is that there weren't just losses. You could perhaps accept this team's fate had there not been glimmers of hope. However, there was the potential this team showed in wins over LIU, Cleveland State and Iona, three teams that are currently in first place in their respective conferences. At one time, Hofstra was 6-7 until they lost nine of their last eleven games. That's what has made this team so mind numbing for its fans and probably for Hofstra Coach Mo Cassara as well.
On Friday night, ESPNU showed a graphic of Cleveland State's NCAA Tournament resume. The good wins included a road win over Vanderbilt, a likely team in the NCAA Tournament. The bad losses included their loss to Hofstra at the Legends' Classic in Rhode Island. Having been one of the few fans in attendance for that game, including one of the few people to see former Pride player Bryant Crowder, nicknamed Bigfoot by DefiantlyDutch, actually play in a regular season game, I can tell you that it was a good win for Hofstra.
But when I do a retrospect on this team's season, I will also know that this team always played hard and never quit. They even showed togetherness when they weren't on the court. I was at a Hofstra women's basketball home game vs. James Madison a few weeks ago. As I sat behind the Hofstra basket with my older son Matthew, I could see to the right of me, sitting in Section 110 the entire men's basketball team rooting on the women's team.
After watching Fordham lose to Charlotte in our first game of our tripleheader on the day, Tieff. Matthew and I raced over to Hofstra. Along the way, I dropped Tieff off at his car at a friend of mine's house where we had met before traveling to Fordham. We then got to the Mack Center with time to spare before the start of the game.
It was Staff Appreciation Day at Hofstra. Staff, faculty and administration could get up to four free tickets and vouchers for pretzels and drinks. It was also Mardi Gras Day at Hofstra as there was a big party with music for the students after the game. Thus there was a good crowd of about 3800 people and the Lions' Den student section was in full force.
Since I have my season tickets already, I gave my two of my four extra free tickets to someone waiting on line, then grabbed four pretzels and three drinks from my free vouchers. Needless to say, Matthew was happy with his bounty of pretzels. Now we were ready to see how good this Georgia State team now was under with new coach Ron Hunter.
Meanwhile, Georgia State was getting good looks from the perimeter. They would hit six of their nine three point attempts in the first half as Devonta While and Rashard Richardson each connected on three of their shots. The Panthers would shoot forty seven percent from the field in the first half.
The Panthers went out to a 16-5 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. As Georgia State was putting on such a dominating defensive performance, one of the fans in my section that I am friendly with said to me "What's the NCAA record for fewest points in a half?" Fortunately, the Pride scored thirteen more points to avoid such a fate, but the Panthers scored another fifteen to take a 33-18 lead at the half.
The start of the second half saw the Panthers maintain their large lead as they were up sixteen, 43-27. But Hofstra was starting to solve Georgia State's defense, while they forced turnovers due to a trap they implemented at the beginning of the second half. They would outscore the Panthers 12-3 over the next five minutes to cut the lead to 46-39.
Three times Hofstra had a chance to cut the lead even further. But Moore missed an open three point look, then turned the ball over. Then after a steal, Steve Mejia drove in for a layup against defensive pressure. But as a symbol to the Hofstra season, the layup bounced on the rim a couple of times then went off. Georgia State would respond with a 5-0 spurt to put the lead back up to twelve, 51-39 with a little less than six minutes left.
From there, the Panthers clamped down on the Pride. Hofstra would only score four more points the rest of the way and Georgia State went on to a convincing 59-43 win. Four players scored in double figures for Georgia State who shot 55 percent from the field. White led all scorers with fifteen points, while Jihad Ali had fourteen points, Richardson had twelve points and Eric Buckner had twelve points and six blocks.
It was again another tough loss for the Pride. They battled the Panthers basically even during the second half, but they had dug themselves too big a whole in the first half. They just need to keep plugging away and try to get a couple of wins down the stretch before the CAA Tournament. It doesn't get any easier with two road games at George Mason and at Drexel, two teams tied for first in conference.
Nothing ever comes easy in the Colonial. You have to keep playing hard and refuse to quit.