Friday, December 23, 2016

Hofstra Gives Their Fans an Early Christmas Present (Recap of Siena vs. Hofstra)

Last season, Hofstra was one regulation free throw away from winning the CAA Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Instead, the Pride lost in overtime to UNCW and ended up playing in the NIT, where they would lose a first round heartbreaker to eventual NIT champion George Washington 82-80.

During last season, Hofstra suffered its worst loss, certainly by point margin, at Siena.  The Saints would go out to a thirteen point halftime lead and coast to an 81-68 victory.  This season, a good number of Saints' fans made the three hour trip from Albany down to Hempstead, New York to see if Siena could make it two in a row against the Pride on Thursday night.   This time, Hofstra had the home court advantage at the David S Mack Arena and within a few minutes of game action, it was apparent that Siena would not win two in a row.

The Saints would actually go out to a 4-2 advantage on a layup by Marcus Wright.  From there, Hofstra would outscored Siena 25-7 over the next seven and a half minutes, keyed by five three pointers, to take a 27-11 lead.  The Saints would then go on a 7-0 spurt to cut the deficit to nine, which would eventually be the margin at halftime, with Hofstra up 38-29.

Siena would cut the Hofstra lead down to seven, 40-33, early in the second half.  But the Pride would go on a 15-4 spurt, thanks to, what else, three 3 pointers, two by Deron Powers to go up 55-37 and the game was basically over with 13:44 left in the game.   All that was left was for Hofstra to avoid fouling out their two big men - Rokas Gustys and Hunter Sabety and get Gustys into double figures in scoring, which gave him is twenty eighth career double-double (Gustys had 10 points and 15 rebounds).  The Pride would win handily 84-64.

When you did the post mortem of the game, it was easy to see how Hofstra won the game.  The Pride shot eleven of twenty one from beyond the arc, while the Saints were two of fourteen from the same distance. The Pride also had fifteen assists, eight of whom came from Powers.  Sabety added five of the seven Hofstra blocks in only eleven minutes of action (also had six rebounds).    

Powers led all scorers with twenty one points on seven of thirteen shooting, including four of five from beyond the arc.  Along with Powers and Gustys, Hofstra got double figure scoring from Justin Wright Foreman, who scored sixteen points off the bench, Eli Pemberton added thirteen and Brian Bernardi chipped in with eleven points.  Nico Clareth led the Saints with sixteen points.

The Saints did a poor job guarding the three point line.  In fact, Powers at least twice dribbled down the court, squared up and shot an open three.    Also, the game would had been a lot closer had Siena 's big men made the most of the open chippies in the paint that Hofstra gave them.  

As for Hofstra, Powers is incredibly quick.   He knifed through the lane several times and had a three point play on a layup and a foul.  That likely is why Siena's guards gave him repeat open looks for three pointers.   I also finally got to see Eli Pemberton in person.  The Hofstra freshman has a nice all around game and Coach Joe Mihalich and his staff should be commended for successfully recruiting such a talented player.

The Pride should try to get Gustys, who has solid post moves for a big man, more field goal attempts - he only had eight and was fouled only once in the act of shooting (and yes, he needs major work on free throw shooting.  He missed both.   The balance of scoring by the Pride offense was nice to see, though Ty Greer, who only had six points,  isn't shy shooting from anywhere, which mind you is a problem when you only go two of seven from the floor.

But in all, it was a very good end to the Pride's non conference schedule.   Their next game starts #CAAHoops conference play, a road trip to the Bob to play Delaware on New Year's Eve.   Outside of the decent size contingent of Siena fans, most of the nearly 1500 in attendance went home happy.  For Hofstra fans, the twenty point win didn't give them visions of sugar plums this holiday season.  It's that ever elusive NCAA Tournament bid that dances in their heads.   

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