By Angelo Brussich, Assistant Sports Editor
Forty minutes of work came down to the final 2.6 seconds. That is when Florida Atlantic University took the lead 62-60 over the Hofstra men's basketball team with a lay-up from FAU senior guard Alex Tucker, creating an opportunity for some buzzer beating heroics.
A half court pass from senior forward Nathaniel Lester never reached its target smoothly. The ball popped up and sophomore guard Shemiye McLendon got a hand on it from 15 feet out, sending the tipped ball into the net, but the play was reviewed and it was deemed that the buzzer had already sounded, giving the Pride its second defeat of the season.
It was not a pretty game for Hofstra, shooting 30.0 percent from the field. The starting front court of Lester, junior forward David Imes and freshmen forward Moussa Kone shot a collective 2-21.
When the points are not coming from where you expect, someone on the bench needs to step up.
"He's [McLendon] continuing to do some really good things," said head coach Mo Cassara. "He's learning and he's listening and if he keeps doing that he's certainly got the talent to help us win games."
McLendon came into the game early after senior guard Mike Moore had what coach Cassara called "a defensive breakdown".
The sophomore went on to score six quick points, and lead the team with eight in the first half. For the game he racked up 30 minutes of time off the bench, ending with 12 points and was the only Hofstra player to shoot above 50 percent from the field, going 5-8.
"I've been doing a lot of maturing, listening to the coaches…I'm playing with more confidence," said McLendon. "I came in more aggressive."
Much of the first half was closely contested as neither team gained a lead of more than five points. Poor shooting from both sides kept the score low. Hofstra shot 34.6 percent and FAU recorded a 39.1 percentage.
Hofstra held the lead at halftime, 32-27. What helped keep Hofstra in the game was its early offensive rebounding. The Pride had seven second chance opportunities in the half compared to FAU's one.
Lester, although he was cold all night shooting from the field, was very effective on the boards coming away with five offensive rebounds in the first half alone. He'd finish with 12 rebounds for the night, six offensive and six defensive.
It was much of the same in the second half as both teams were missing a majority of their shots. Only two points were scored in the first three minutes of the half, but Hofstra was doing enough to hold a nine point lead, 36-27.
Cassara then called a timeout to regroup after a sequence of shaky possessions and after that, FAU turned on the pressure. The Owls went on a 15-0 run to retake the lead and cause Hofstra to play catch up for the remainder of the game.
FAU picked up its shooting percentage to 45.2 percent while Hofstra's shooting got worse, falling to 26.5 percent. Rebounding provided Hofstra with the chances to win the game, outrebounding FAU 42-34.
As the game was nearing the end, it was Moore and senior guard Stevie Mejia and who really began to pick up their game. Mejia had nine points in the second half to finish with 14 and Moore added 13 to finish with 20.
Hofstra's defense was not where it needed to be at the end of the game as it allowed FAU to score 12 points on its final six possessions.
"We had a couple of defensive breakdowns and if we go back and look at some things we didn't do well they're pretty correctable things," said Cassara. "It was frustrating…we got a little lackadaisical on defense…it wasn't that we weren't trying, we just didn't execute."
After Tucker made a jumper to give FAU the lead, Moore made two free throws to tie the game at 60 with 26 seconds left, giving FAU plenty of time to run down the clock and take the final shot.
"That's a game we really should have won," said Cassara. "We had a lot of careless turnovers, a lot of lackadaisical play, something we got to get better at."
Moore then summed up the feelings of the Pride after the game with this message to the team, "Bounce back…if we lose one or lose two bounce back and win three."
A visibly down Mejia then added "I just want to win…I felt like those last three plays were my fault."
Hofstra returns to action over the weekend as they travel to Rhode Island for the TicketCity Legends Classic, with its first game against Rhode Island University on Friday.