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Pride outlast Broncs in OT to remain undefeated in Bracketbusters

By Max Sass, Sports Editor

The Pride men's basketball team took a break from their Colonial Athletic Association schedule this week when they hosted Rider University in their Bracketbuster matchup. The Pride needed an extra five minutes to hold on against the Broncs and star guard Ryan Thompson and remain undefeated at 5-0 in Bracketbuster games.

The game was not close until the final few minutes. The Pride led by nine at halftime, 44-35, and extended that to 11 early in the second half. Rider slowly crept back into the game thanks to 20 second-half points by Thompson. "We had them at 11, I think was our biggest lead, but we didn't get the seperation we needed after that," said Hofstra head coach Tom Pecora.

The Broncs tied the game at 75-75 with 13 seconds remaining in regulation. Junior guard Charles Jenkins had one last shot to win the game before time expired, but a last second shot attempt in the lane was just off.

Thompson, the younger brother of Sacramento Kings' forward Jason Thompson, scored a career-high 38 points in the game. Jenkins did his best to match the Rider star, scoring 31 points of his own. "Charles played a long time with four fouls and made plays when we needed him to," Pecora said.

Jenkins was happy with his performance, but focused on the team's success postgame. "For us to come in and beat a team like that, it was big for us," he said.

Junior forward Greg Washington, who contributed 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocked shots, helped make up for senior forward Miklos Szabo's absence. Szabo played just four minutes in the game because he was suffering from the flu.

Washington was happy with the way he and his fellow forwards have been playing in the team's guard centered offense. "Our frontcourt has really been playing well the past couple of games, rebounding and getting guards like Charles and [senior guard] Cornelius [Vines] shots," Washington said.

Junior swingman Nathaniel Lester, who played only 11 minutes in the Pride's victory over Northeastern, played for 33 minutes against Rider. Lester made the most of his playing time, adding 14 points and nine rebounds. "I thought Nat Lester made some big plays for us," said Pecora. "I was proud of the way he played."

Lester, whose minutes have fluctuated all season, is embracing his role according to his coach. "I think he is fitting into that role now, coming off the bench for us and doing certain things," said Pecora.

While Lester was up for the game, freshman guard Chaz Williams was down. Williams did score 12 points and grab nine rebounds, but shot only 3-12 from the field, including 0-5 from three-point range. Williams also turned the ball over six times. "I think he is trying too hard and trying to make some special plays," said Pecora, "instead of just realizing that when we come down and have a good trip that he has done a wonderful job."

Despite being locked into the seventh seed in the CAA tournament, the Pride still look to improve as they move forward. Tuesday night's matchup at Northeastern on ESPNU at 9 p.m. will be a chance for redemption. The Huskies beat the Pride at the Mack Sports Complex 75-55 earlier in the month. "I feel like we can beat anybody now," said Pecora. "We have always played well against Northeastern."

The Pride's road to Richmond and the CAA tournament travels through Boston next, but soon returns to the Mack for the last home game of the season against Georgia State. "Whether we win or lose Tuesday, I am going to feel like we can beat Georgia State [on] Saturday and then who ever gets in our way the rest of the way," said Pecora.

Junior Nathaniel Lester scored 14 points in the Pride's 92-89 overtime victory over Rider Saturday afternoon at the Mack Sports Complex. (Sean M. Gates/ The Chronicle)

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