By Elliott Bell
The Pride men's basketball team knew that it could not lose to rival Saint John's University in front of a sold out crowd of 5,124 at the Hofstra Arena.
Determination, heart and endurance seem to be necessary in beating good teams that will not just rollover.
There were two players who particularly exemplified those words in the Pride's 78-56 win over the St. John's University Red Storm on Dec. 11. Without forward Adrian Uter and guard Antoine Agudio - both playing out of position due to a depleted lineup - the Pride's chances of winning would have been bleak.
On paper, St. John's seemed to have the size advantage with five players standing at 6-foot-8 or taller. The most notable was Lamont Hamilton, the mammoth 6-foot-9, 245 pound forward.
Obviously someone forgot to tell Uter about the major size disadvantage. The 6-foot-7 power forward dominated in the first half. He scored the Pride's first four points and his tenacity under the boards, along with his physical defensive style, helped the Pride maintain a lead for most of the first half.
With 8:20 left in the first half, Uter drained two free throws, catapulting the Pride to its second lead of the half at 21-19. When the half ended, Uter's stat-line included eight points, eight boards, and one monster block that sent the ball flying into press row. As Uter flourished in the first half, freshman sensation Antoine Agudio struggled.
He managed just three points in 11 minutes after getting into early foul trouble. Things did not look promising for the guard who came into the game average nearly 17 a game. However, the second half told a more benevolent story for the freshman. As Uter cooled down, it was Agudio who heated up. With the Pride trailing by one in the second half Agudio simply took.
A spin move followed by a lay-up, then a pull-up jumper followed by a few jumpers, and before you knew it Aguido and the Pride led 57-44 after a 19-4 run. A bad first half didn't leave any doubts that Agudio would be a major part of the success for the team.
"Antoine didn't have a great first half, but I had all the confidence in him to get it done," head coach Tom Pecora said.
On his behalf, Agudio attributed his second half success to two things.
"I tried to stay out of foul trouble. Coach [Pecora] told me to stay out of trouble and just relax out there," Agudio said. "Loren Stokes was being double teamed and well guarded against so that left me open. My job is to play defense and do whatever it takes to win."
Uter's double-double, and Agudio's 19 points and seven assists are perfect examples of determination, heart and endurance.