By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
The comeback kids were at it again as the Hofstra University men's basketball team overcame a 14 point deficit in the second half to win a 78-75 thriller over Northeastern University on Saturday afternoon.
Though the Pride did not commit many turnovers, Northeastern's full court press disrupted Hofstra's offensive game plan early. When shots were available, they were from outside which beckoned the likes of senior guard Charles Jenkins, junior guard Mike Moore and senior Brad Kelleher. With limited success from beyond the arc, Northeastern held a 9-6 lead at the under 16 media timeout.
"We just moved the ball," said Jenkins. "One of the things we recognized is that we were open in the corner."
Hofstra's shooting did heat up however going on a 9-2 run to grab an 18-14 lead with just under 12 minutes left, but Northeastern was quick to keep up with the Pride's sharp shooting, beating Hofstra inside and under the basket as things remained close.
The game lost its flow momentarily as some sloppy play slowed things down with the teams knotted at 21 with 7:48 left in the first half. Hofstra had some difficulty hitting free-throws that would have at least given them at least a 4 point advantage.
With four minutes left in the half, Hofstra began finding its way through Northeastern's press as a 5-0 run put the Pride up 29-28 despite Jenkins being frustrated for a majority of the half.
The teams continued to trade baskets for the rest of the half as Hofstra was getting some even scoring contributions from eight different scorers , but the Pride trailed at the half 37-36. Hofstra shot 7-12 from three-point range, but the Huskies outscored the Pride 16-4 in the half. Northeastern's senior guard Chaisson Allen had 15 points to lead all scorers going into the locker room.
Northeastern continued to abuse the low post on offense as the Huskies used their height to their advantage. The Pride deficit grew to nine at 51-42 with five and a half minutes gone in the second half as shots would not fall and ball possession was lackluster.
"We were slow, they were driving the ball and they did a terrific job moving the ball," said head coach Mo Cassara.
The deficit turned to fourteen, the largest of the game, with Northeastern looking for a knockout blow and Hofstra desperate for a hero.
The fact that Northeastern was also winning the rebound battle was not helping the Pride's cause either, as the Huskies were able to create second, third and sometimes fourth chances on offense.
Hofstra continued to push for some offensive spark and out of nowhere, the Pride began to fashion a run, cutting the Huskies lead to 66-61 with 7:17 left with Jenkins not much of a factor and with four fouls, sitting on the bench.
"Coach subbed be in defense, offense," said Jenkins. "I just had to play smart knowing that they were going to play to my drive and try and draw a charge."
Jenkins checked back in with 6:25 left and Hofstra down 68-63 as the senior looked to rally the blue and gold back. Five consecutive points by number 22 cut the deficit to three, but Northeastern was not giving up its lead that easily.
A few more missed free throws and some questionable officiating stalled the Hofstra comeback with 3:52 left and the Pride down 75-68.
This team is no stranger to adversity and with a Jenkins lay-up and foul, the senior went to the line to tie the game at 75. He missed the free throw, but freshman guard Shemiye McLendon came up with a huge steal, was fouled on a lay-up attempt and coolly sunk both free throws to give the Pride a 76-75 advantage with just under two minutes left.
A missed three from Allen and a rebound by Moore kept the one point lead with 48.3 seconds left as a Hail Mary pass from the junior to Washington appeared to have the center in the clear for an easy lay-up, however, the big man pulled up and Cassara called a timeout.
Jenkins missed a lay-up with 16 seconds left and with Northeastern looking for a last second winner; a lay-up attempt was blocked from behind by Jenkins and Washington and went off Northeastern's Joel Smith.
McLendon was fouled in the ensuing inbound pass and was sent to the line with 6.4 seconds left. The freshman hit both, putting Hofstra up 78-75.
"You've seen that this is the second time that he has hit free throws to win the game," said Cassara. "The one thing about Shemiye is that he doesn't change his demeanor."
Northeastern looked to go the length of the court to tie, but some stifling Hofstra defense did not allow a Husky shot as time ran out on another gritty Hofstra win.
Jenkins finished with 21 points, Moore added 16 and Kelleher had 12 of his own in the victory. The Pride improves to 9-4 in CAA play and 15-9 overall.
"The thing that I'm most proud of is that we never give up," said Cassara. "I think the past five games we've been down at halftime and they were bonding together and finding a way to win."
Hofstra is next in action on Wednesday when it travels down to Atlanta to take on Georgia State.