It took over 100 points and double overtime, but the Hofstra Pride men’s basketball team was able to survive 103-100 against the Marshall Thundering Herd at the Mack Sports Complex.
With the win Hofstra finished the2K Sports Classic a perfect 3-0, righting a ship that did not start out well.
“What a difference a week makes,” said Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara. “A week ago today we were 0-2, we were in west Lafayette Indiana, we couldn’t make a basket, we lost 2 games by 29 points, we were just in disarray…credit to these guys I’ve never seen a team comeback and play the way that we did.”
For the Pride (3-2) it is its first time breaking the 100 point mark against a Division 1 opponent since the 1992-1993 season against UMBC, when it matched the 103 mark with a 103-97 victory.
Early on it seemed as if Hofstra would be able to cruise to victory, as it grabbed the lead early and did not give it up until the overtime period. The Pride led by as many as 13 with just under 10 minutes to play.
Marshall (2-3) though, aided by a 21-9 run late in the game pulled back and tied Hofstra with a minute and a half to play.
After trading baskets and free throws, Hofstra held an 85-82 lead with under 10 seconds to play, but Marshall junior Elijah Pittman drained a three to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Senior guard Stevie Mejia had a strong game for the Pride, repeatedly scoring the baskets when Hofstra needed to keep the Herd from over taking the lead. Mejia finished the game with a career high 22 points and four rebounds against the much bigger guards of the Herd.
“The leadership that Stevie continues to show, he even calmed me down a few times tonight,” said Cassara. “That’s a sign of true leadership and that’s an extension of me.”
Mejia would go on to win MVP honors of the tournament.
“It feels good,” said Mejia. “But the greatest feeling I have right now is just being happy with my teammates. A week ago we were down in the slumps, it feels good to have my teammates just laughing and having fun and that’s what it comes down to.”
But the Pride was going to have to win it in overtime without Mejia, as the guard fouled out early in the first overtime period.
Marshall finally took the lead with 2:15 to play in overtime when Pittman laid it up and in and drew the foul, pushing the score to 89-86. But the Pride would not let this game slip away as senior forward David Imes made two free throws late to send the game to double overtime.
“I’m exhausted,” said Cassara. “There were more end of game situations in that game then I’ve ever been a part of, we had an opportunity to foul in regulation, we didn’t and they end up getting a three, we lost a man on a switch in overtime, they hit another three.”
In the second overtime sophomore guard Shaquille Stokes, the hero from Friday’s win over South Dakota State, helped to carry the Pride with 10 of his 26 points coming in the double overtime period.
The Herd would not go down quietly, led by junior guard DeAndre Kane’s 33 points, Marshall pulled within one at 101-100, but two late free throws by Stokes clinched the game and the tournament for Hofstra.
“We wanted to win, we wanted to get stops. Coach kept emphasizing ‘one stop, one stop!’,” said Stokes. “It’s been a fun roller coaster; I still want to enjoy the ride.”
The beginning of the game was all Pride, and Hofstra played tough along the glass against a much bigger Marshall team. The Pride out rebounded the Herd 57-43.
“I wrote those numbers up on the board when we got in there and I said here’s something that I think is going to make everyone proud, we told them if we want to win we have to win the rebound battle,” said Cassara.
He continued “At times it seemed like they were killing us on the glass because of their size and their length but for our team with three guards out there a lot who aren’t tall as far as height goes, to beat them 57 to 43 is a great feat.”
Sophomore forward Moussa Kone was right in the middle of the rebound battle, collecting 10 while also scoring 14 points on the night.
“They had good size, they were all big, huge, all we had to do was work together, box out and play our role when it came down to defense and offense.” said Kone.
Hofstra went into the half leading 37-31 on 54.2 percent shooting, while also shooting 60.0 percent from beyond the three point line.