By Angelo Brussich, Staff Writer
A packed Mack Sports Complex of 4,258 fans saw the Hofstra men's basketball team defeat Iona College 83-75 for the Pride's third straight victory. After a shaky first two months of the season, including a four game losing streak, Hofstra improves to 6-7 on the season.
"I think whenever you are going through a stretch where you aren't playing real well, you're trying to push and pull and find anything that'll work and I think with that you almost become superstitious," said Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara. "I don't if anybody has noticed, but I've worn this suit the last three games."
There was added incentive in Hofstra's victory as the team avenged the 87-62 drubbing it received from the Gaels in Iona last season.
"Every day when we found out they were on our schedule we just waited until this day to take advantage of it and make up for it [the loss]," said junior forward David Imes.
"A year ago tonight was a tough night but it was a big turning point for us," said Cassara.
Senior guard Mike Moore led the way yet again with 24 points in the game. It was the tenth time this season that Moore has scored 20 or more points and it is the eleventh time that he has led the Pride in scoring. He leads the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) and is ranked seventh in the nation in scoring with 21.4 points per game (ppg).
"We all believe in ourselves and we know what we can do as players," said Moore. "I just kept shooting and making the right pass… I just felt like I had to make something happen."
Despite starting the game 1-6 shooting, Moore eventually found his stroke, knocking down three straight shots to finish his first half shooting 4-9 with 12 points.
"It was easy for me…we had the lead from the beginning so I wasn't really stressing" said Moore on his early shooting woes.
The entire team played a very cohesive game with Imes and senior forward Nathaniel Lester not only contributing on the offensive end, Lester had 21 points and Imes added 16, but on the defensive end as well. Imes had 15 rebounds, six on the offensive glass, and four steals.
"This was a big confidence booster," said Imes. "I needed that."
Lester contributed 10 rebounds and four steals.
"We knew we had a size advantage," said Imes. "We wanted to take advantage of the backboard."
Lester, who has struggled of late to score points, felt that "seeing the ball go through the basket helps the confidence and puts the confidence in my teammates and helps us get on a roll."
"It's all about staying confident," said Lester.
The first half of the game was dominated by Hofstra as the defense created havoc for Iona, who coming into play were ranked fourth in the NCAA in scoring. Hofstra managed to hold Iona to just 28 points in the game's first 20 minutes.
In the first half alone Iona had 18 of its 23 total turnovers contributing to Hofstra's early success.
"We wanted to get them off kilter," said Cassara. "Ultimately some of those turnovers led to us getting some easy baskets."
Senior guard Dwan McMillan, who played just under 40 minutes in the game, contributed ten points and was one assist away from his second straight double-double. McMillan was all over the floor, using his speed to press the ball up the court and drive the basket.
"I thought Dwan was great," said Cassara. "His effort has been tremendous."
Halftime seemed to come at an inopportune time for Hofstra as it found itself stretching the lead over the Gaels to 15 at 43-28, but the Pride was able to keep up the intensity to begin the second half.
Like any high powered offense however, Iona's offense began to click as it slowly chipped away at the Hofstra lead.
Iona senior forward Mike Glover provided a powerful presence, recording 20 points and 13 rebounds. His ferocity could be seen from the tip-off as his first six points came from three dunks. He shot 9-11 from the field.
Though Iona managed to chip into the lead, the major run and point swing never happened, which is a tribute to Hofstra's offense managing to keep up with its opponents.
The teams began matching three-point shots and Iona could only come within seven points of the lead.
Freshman forward Moussa Kone provided the dagger with a fast break one-handed dunk with a minute remaining in the game, giving the Pride a nine point lead.
"I think we've hit a turning point for our team" said Cassara. ""We've been trying to push some different buttons and do some different things and really get a better sense of ourselves."
"On paper the two best teams that we've played are Cleveland and Iona," added Cassara. "And we've beaten both those teams."