Everyone wants to make their momma proud, and Hofstra Pride men’s basketball sophomore guard Shaquille Stokes did just that when he sank the game winning three for the Pride against the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits Friday night at the Mack Center.
Hofstra won the game 66-63, and Stokes was able to show off a bit for his parents who were watching him play college basketball for the first time live.
“It’s my mom’s first time watching me play live today so I was excited,” said Stokes. “My parents got to see me live for the first time because I was in Hawaii, so I gave them a gift with a game winner plus it was my pops birthday yesterday, so happy birthday to him.”
With time winding down, the Pride held a slim three point lead with under a minute to play senior guard Nate Wolters was the last person Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara wanted to see with the ball in his hands.
“We were arguing in my office the last three days about how we’re going to guard him,” said Cassara. “I said to the guys if the shot clocks running down and it’s the end of the game or the half, run at him, make him pass the ball or kick it to someone else. He hit that one late in the game, I think we backed off, but he’s a terrific player and he makes you make mistakes.”
With under 30 seconds to play and the score tied 63-63, Hofstra could now play for the last shot. Stokes held the ball behind the three point line, scanning the court with time running down.
Senior guard Stevie Mejia and sophomore guard Taran Buie each had 14 points for the Pride and were on the floor for the final shot, but for Stokes something just felt right.
“I know Taran and Stevie kept calling for the ball, but I waved them off and thought ‘I’m going to have to shoot this one’, so I just shot it and it went in.” said Stokes.
His three gave Hofstra a three point lead, with three seconds to play in the third game of the season and SDSU did not have time to get a clean shot off.
“The energy, the effort the excitement, the passion that these guys played with was phenomenal,” said Cassara. “We had a couple drives, we made a couple plays…the guys are resilient. I told these guys the reason that we won that game was because they fought through some adversity…”
The game started off much differently for the Pride then its first two games, with Hofstra shooting 41.2 percent in the first half, playing tough aggressive defense and moving the ball nicely around the perimeter offensively.
Hofstra stayed with SDSU through much of the first half, but when the Jackrabbits began to pull away it was Buie who came in off the bench to bring the Pride back.
“Taran came off [the bench] made a couple shots for us and got us going,” said Cassara. “When that first shot went in for Taran, it was almost like the pressure came off of us because all of a sudden we got another threat to score.”
Buie scored 11 points in the first half on 4-4 shooting, while also drawing two offensive fouls. He led the charge back and Hofstra went into the half trailing by only one.
“It’s been a long journey, a long two years since I’ve been on the court, there’s been a lot of off the court stuff that I had to get through to get to this place,” said Buie. “I’m very proud of myself for making it back on the court and playing as well as I did.”
Coming out for the second half, Hofstra was on the attack early, scoring the first five points, retaking a lead they would not let up the rest of the way.
The Pride was able to hold off waves of offensive attacks by the Jackrabbits, getting the big stops needed to keep itself in the lead.
Mejia was a big factor in the second half on all sides of the floor. He was given the dubious task of guarding Wolters, and kept the NBA first round hopeful mostly in check.
“Just stay in front of him, try and be a pest,” said Mejia. “Every time he has the ball just get in front of him, let him know I’m there. His numbers show, but most important is that we got the win.”
Hofstra got contributions from all over the floor, with the Prides bench outscoring the Jackrabbits bench 29 to seven, while also outscoring SDSU 38 to 20 on points in the paint.
Hofstra will be right back at it today, as they take on the District of Columbia at 5 p.m. for its second game of the three game weekend it was on tap.
“It’s a challenging tournament, the one thing is that we were in it last year so we know what it’s like,” said Cassara. “I told the guys in there and Coach Morgan said this win doesn’t mean anything unless we go out and win tomorrow.”