By Kyle Kandetzki - Assistant Sports Editor A game where your team hits triple digits seems like a massive success for most, but for the Pride Wednesday night, a blowout victory still showed flaws.
The Hofstra Pride men’s basketball team traveled to Baltimore, Maryland for their last game before a finals break against the Coppin State University Eagles. Hofstra outmatched Coppin State from the gate, and the Pride won 105-64, the first time the Pride has hit triple digits in nearly five years.
“Being the stickler that I am, I think we got a little sloppy,” said head coach Joe Mihalich. “But that also might not be fair, our guys did a good job.”
The game only remained a close affair for about three minutes, when Hofstra held an 8-6 lead. But the offense quickly heated up, making four shots in a row, including three from behind the arc, and just like that it was 19-8.
The Eagles would never get control of Hofstra’s offense, or even their own quick moving attack. The Pride drew 16 free throws in the first half, hitting 14 of them. Hofstra also capitalized off of sloppy ball movement, earning six steals by the break.
“That team will make you hurry a bit and get you out of control,” said Mihalich. “But I think we adjusted well and we didn’t change the way we play.”
With the score at 48-26 at halftime, it was clear Hofstra was in complete control, but the Pride offense did not slow down by any means. Hofstra jacked up 14 threes in the second half, hitting nine of them. Though the Pride defense would allow easy scores at times for the Eagles, they would always respond with several makes of their own.
While the defense was lacking for both sides in a half where the game felt ‘exhibition-like’, Ameen Tanksley continued to impress, whether he was wide open or heavily guarded. The back-to-back CAA Player of the Week stated his case for another award, leading the team on 23 points and 9-for-13 shooting.
As the Baltimore crowd continued to watch in awe of the consistent back-and-forth play on their home court, Malik Nichols showed how key of a player he has become under the hoop. The Pride lineup has been shaken up due to the absence of Rokas Gustys and Moussa Kone, but Nichols has flourished in a new role, earning his second double-double on 10 points and 15 rebounds.
“Malik has really started to buy into this role with the team,” said Mihalich. “And that is to go and get every rebound, and then the points are going to come.”
Hofstra had five players score in double figures on Wednesday, including Brian Bernardi who was especially impressive in the second half. Bernardi scored 20 for the game, and shot 4-for-6 from three in the latter half. Juan’ya Green also added what could be considered a quiet double-double on 17 points and 10 boards.
“It’s amazing, as a coach, when [Green is] on the floor, you don’t worry so much,” said Mihalich. “You know he’s going to get into your offense, you know he’s going to get the ball to the right people at the right time.”
The winner of this game was clear early on in the second, and the only question fans and players were asking was ‘can Hofstra reach 100?’ That question was answered with a ‘yes’ with two minutes remaining when an Eliel Gonzalez free throw went through the net. This was Hofstra’s first triple digit performance since 2009.
Less consistent contributors helped the Pride pile on the scoring late, as Gonzalez had his biggest night of the year with 9 points. Walk-on Daryl Fowlkes added two points late, and gave the crowd a last second thrill when he nearly threw down a dunk. Nevertheless, Fowlkes’ basket meant every eligible Pride player scored; the second time Hofstra has done that this season.
“I was happy for [Eliel] tonight, because it’s been rough for him,” said Mihalich. “He has taken a backseat to some good guards, but he practiced well all week, got out there, and did some good things.”
Lazy defense at times allowed Coppin State to add on 38 points in the second half, but either way it wouldn’t even be close as the game came closed at a 105-64 final.
It’s hard to determine whether this was truly an unparalleled performance for the Pride, or a 1-8 Coppin State team was simply that bad. But if you glance at the stats Hofstra was able to accomplish, one could definitely be encouraged that some of the issues the team has had are starting to fade away.
The Pride has struggled from the line this season, placing themselves in the bottom quarter of teams in the nation in that category. But Wednesday was a change of pace, shooting 20-for-25 at the stripe.
The lack of a rotation of big men has hurt this team inside at times, but that was also not an issue. Hofstra scored 40 points in the paint, while also out-rebounding a guard-heavy Eagles team 49-29.
The victory gave Hofstra their fourth-in-a-row, and a record of 7-2 as they hit a ten-day break for finals. The Pride will begin the home stretch of out-of-conference play when they return to action on December 20th against Columbia University in Manhattan. Coach Mihalich said to expect this game to be a difficult one, and Columbia showed their abilities after nearly knocking off top-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday.