By Angelo Brussich, Staff Writer
It was déjà vu all over again for the Hofstra men's basketball team (6-11) as it lost to the Northeastern University Huskies (7-8) in the final seconds Wednesday night at the Mack Sports Complex, 64-62. The loss was Hofstra's fourth and keeps the Pride winless in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play with a 0-5 record.
Hofstra has lost two of its last three games by a combined three points after a one point loss to Delaware last week.
"It's certainly a challenging and frustrating loss for our club," said Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara. "Right now it's one bounce for us, it's one play, that's how fine our margin for error is. We're doing some good things we just haven't been able to finish them off."
Northeastern junior guard Jonathan Lee came into the game as the Huskies leading scorer but and scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half of the game, finding the ball in his hands as time was winding down. With the score tied at 62, Lee drove to the basket, stopped and pulled up for a mid-range jumper that swished through the net with just under 10 seconds left to play. Lee would finish with 21 points for the game.
"He [Lee] made some tough shots, especially on second and third chances," said senior guard Dwan McMillan who had the responsibility of guarding him. "He's a great player and made some tough plays."
Hofstra senior forward Nathaniel Lester had a team high 19 points while also adding four rebounds. Lester had a chance to tie the game after Lee's bucket, but after some contact with a Northeastern player in front of the Hofstra bench, he stepped out of bounds. No foul was called and Northeastern got the ball back
"He definitely bumped me" said Lester, "I thought it was a foul, but it wasn't a call so it wasn't a foul. The ref said I stepped out [of bounds]."
Lester had another chance at a last second half court shot after Lee missed his first of a one and one free throw, but it fell well short at the buzzer.
"I'm just doing whatever it takes to help my team win," said Lester on his big offensive night. "If it takes me to rebound that's what I'll do, if it takes me to score I'll do that also."
Hofstra and CAA scoring leader, senior guard Mike Moore, was having a difficult night getting shots to the basket. Moore, who coming into last night's game was averaging 21.1 points per game, had only nine points on 4-11 shooting. Moore had been Hofstra's leading scorer in 14 of its first 16 games leading into this game.
"He's [Moore] hampered, he has a bit of a groin injury," Cassara said. "Mike's a bit banged up."
Moore had mentioned he had tweaked his groin after Hofstra's win against Iona at the end of December.
It seemed there was no need for Moore at the start of the game as McMillan was leading a ferocious charge as Hofstra took a 9-0 lead on 4-6 shooting in the game's first five minutes.
Northeastern answered right back with a 12-0 run and the game became a back and forth affair as teams continued to trade baskets. They ended the first half tied at 24.
Sophomore forward Stephen Nwaukoni proved to be a force down low as he had 10 points and nine rebounds. Many of his points were tough fought plays down low in the paint as he had five offensive rebounds.
"Stephen gives us great energy; he's keeping a lot of basketballs alive," said Cassara. "He's continuing to improve and we need him to do that."
"It definitely helps my confidence," said Nwaukoni. "We lost, but I'm going to keep my head up."
With under a minute to play and the score tied at 60, Moore was called for a questionable foul under the basket, allowing Northeastern to take the lead at the free throw line.
"I was certainly upset with the call, I'll have to go back and look at it." said Cassara.
Lester drove to the basket for a lay-up seconds later to tie the game, setting the stage for Lee's last second heroics.
Hofstra is now one of two teams that remain winless in the CAA. The other is a Towson side that has an overall 0-16 record.
"We have to find a way to win a game and get some confidence back," said Cassara.
Hofstra will have that chance Saturday against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia as it looks for its first CAA win.