By Angelo Brussich, Staff Writer
"We have to learn how to win."
That was the message given by Hofstra men's basketball head coach Mo Cassara after the Pride's 68-59 loss to Manhattan University Saturday night at the Mack Sports Complex. The loss was Hofstra's fourth in a row, dropping its record to 3-7 on the year.
Hofstra's offense was not able to hit its stride throughout the game and at no point did it manage to grab the lead. Like many times this year, senior guard Mike Moore was the lone offensive standout, recording 20 points and four assists.
Although it fell behind early, Hofstra's defense played a tight game, keeping the Pride in the game despite what appeared to be times of Manhattan dominance.
"Defensively for the most part we've been pretty solid, we just haven't been able to score enough," said Cassara.
It was the third straight game senior guard Stevie Mejia was not able to play due to a hamstring injury. Junior forward Bryant Crowder was not with the team for undisclosed reasons.
"[We had a] short bench and playing some different guys in different positions and right now we're just struggling to score."
It seemed a low scoring battle was in store at the game's start as neither team scored within the first two minutes. Turnovers plagued both teams, but neither side could capitalize. Manhattan's offense sprang to life, going on a 21-4 run to open up the scoring, putting Hofstra in a deep early deficit.
"We've got to do a better job executing; I'm not going to make excuses. It's been a challenge with sickness and injuries," said Cassara. "Manhattan wears you down, but no excuses here."
Hofstra answered Manhattan with a 14-2 run of its own, cutting the deficit to just five at 25-20 with 5:04 left in the first half. The Pride managed to score only one more point for the rest of the half, entering halftime down 34-21.
Manhattan sophomore forward Rhamel Brown of Manhattan controlled the boards, coming away with six in the first half while only playing 11 minutes. Hofstra was outrebounded 21-16 in the half, and 43-32 for the game, an area where the Pride have been able to excel in the early stages of this season. Senior forward Nathaniel Lester, who led Hofstra with eight boards on the night, attributed it to a lack of desire by Hofstra around the net.
"We got to just want it more, rebounds are about attitude," said Lester. "We have to have the will to just go out there and rebound…that's what I've stressed to my younger guys."
The offensive woes continued in the second half for Hofstra. When Hofstra was able to put together a run, it was immediately matched and therefore canceled out by Manhattan.
"It's been one key play here or there where we just can't quite get that one stop or make that one extra basket and it kind of steam rolls from there," said Cassara.
Hofstra was able to cut the lead down to seven at 62-55 with three minutes to play, but Manhattan stomped out any last ditch efforts of the Pride with some strong defense.
One of the bigger problems on the team according to Moore and Lester is confidence.
"That's something [confidence] we got to work on" said Lester.
"Guys have to get a little more confidence out on the court," said Moore. "We were within five…a couple more plays and we tie the game up."
Cassara managed to take some positive notes from the loss, one being the continuing improvement of younger players such as freshman forward Moussa Kone and sophomore guard Shemiye McLendon.
McLendon had nine points and four rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench and providing senior guard Dwan McMillian a reprieve from the point guard position at times.
Kone continues to bring energy to the crowd with his tendency for the big play. The freshman had three blocks, one a monster block from behind on a fast break lay-up attempt that brought the crowd to its feet
"Moussa continues to do some really positive things," said Cassara. "He's just bringing some good energy but he's got a lot of things to continue to improve on as well to really anchor our defense."
"We've got a long way to go…We've got a lot of basketball to play and we want to be playing our best basketball in January or February."
Hofstra will look to break its four game skid on Saturday December 17th, at the Mack in a non-conference matchup against 0-7 Binghamton with tip off set for 4PM.