By Joe Pantorno, Sports Editor
STATEN ISLAND, NY- Count from one to 869. In seconds, that equates to 14 minutes and 29 seconds, which is the amount of time in the second half the Hofstra University men's basketball team went without making a field goal in its 58-43 loss to Wagner.
"I'm not going to make excuses we obviously have a long way to go," said head coach Mo Cassara. "We have a lot to improve on but statistically, and I'm not a stats guy, we didn't play well tonight. We have a lot of guys that really need to play a lot better."
Hofstra shot just 4-22 in the second half, 13-45 (29.9 percent) for the entire game as senior guard Mike Moore led the Pride with 15 points. It is the eighth time in nine games he has led the team. Hofstra's record is 1-7 when he does lead the team.
"One of our big challenge is when it's not going well is to find that internal toughness to fight through it and find a way to score," said Cassara. "Right now we're not getting that."
With senior guard Stevie Mejia still nursing a hamstring injury, sophomore forward Stephen Nwaukoni out with illness and junior forward Bryant Crowder not making the trip, Hofstra had only eight players dressed.
"A lot of times in basketball you need to be good, be a little lucky and you have to stay healthy," said Cassara. "This year we just haven't had those things happen but that's just part of the game."
Junior guard Matt Grogan recorded a season high 19 minutes and at times was one of two walk-ons on the court, teaming up with freshman forward Jereme Good, who was on the floor for two minutes.
"Matt was ready to play and gave us a great lift," said Cassara. "He had a couple great looks and they didn't go in for him but that's the way it has kind of been going right now."
Entering the second half down 26-23, Wagner utilized a 10-4 run to gain a big enough lead that proved too much for Hofstra to come back on.
Sloppy play doomed the Pride who turned the ball over 20 times. Wagner did not fare much better with ball possession, with 19 giveaways.
"I think we had just too many turnovers," said Cassara. "You can't turn the ball over the way we did tonight. We turned the ball over 20 times on the road so it'll be very hard to win."
Wagner proved to be a very physical opponent as the referees whistle constantly interfered with the flow of the game. With a short bench, senior forward Nathaniel Lester, senior guard Dwan McMillan and freshman guard Shemiye McLendon all committed four fouls, giving Wagner plenty chances to get some free points from the charity stripe. The Seahawks went 16-20 (80 percent) from the free throw line.
Coming back from two outings that resulted in a combined 11 points, Lester recorded 12 points and seven rebounds against Wagner.
Holding a Wagner team to 58 points after it just scored 90 points against St. Francis (NY) team turned out to be one of the few positives that Cassara could take out of the game.
"You know I think we're doing some really good things defensively," said Cassara. "We forced them into some turnovers, we got some good stops. We just have to execute better on offense."
Hofstra falls to 3-6 on the season and is next in action on Saturday against Manhattan.