The last time the Hofstra Pride and the La Salle Explorers played each other was nine years ago with the Pride on the victory side but in 2014 Hofstra crumbled to La Salle 83-74.
“We didn’t do it today. Credit goes to them and they punched us. They were tougher on offense and they were tougher on defense,” said head coach Joe Mihalich. “The toughest team on the floor is going to win the game.”
Hofstra was 4-0 at home going into the match against the Explorers—a team that was 3-0 on the road themselves . The loss broke Hofstra’s perfect home record and the Pride dropped to 7-4. This equaled their first losing streak of the season after also falling to Columbia Saturday. La Salle improved to 7-5 overall on the season, 4-0 on the road.
Ameen Tanksley led the Pride with 23 points and added six rebounds to his performance. Juan’ya Green scored the second-most for the Pride with 15 points. Green was 7-for-8 from the charity stripe and led Hofstra with 11 assists.
Before the game started, Mihalich and the Pride faithful congratulated Dion Nesmith for his recent achievement, breaking the 1,000 career point mark in his colligate career.
Once the game got underway, Hofstra struggled against the La Salle Explorers with Jordan Price scoring 17 points and Cleon Roberts adding 11 points to put the Pride in a 44-36 bind by halftime.
Hofstra’s Brian Bernardi tried to get the Pride going early with a 3-pointer in the first 21 seconds of the game and a free-throw to give Hofstra a 4-2 lead within the first two minutes.
La Salle started to pick up the pace with Price making two 3-pointers, Green and Tanksley tried to keep the Pride on par with La Salle compiling four points to tie the game at 8-8 in the first four minutes.
But the Explorers stormed off with their offense out-maneuvering the Pride’s defense through majority of the first half. La Salle later took a seven-point lead over the Pride by the 12:30 mark. The constant passing from La Salle put the Pride off-balance and the Explorers found their way to score inside the arc.
“We took some bad ones for sure,” said Mihalich. “I thought we had bad possessions.”
Hofstra felt La Salle’s pressure, leading to forced shots and passes, ultimately ending in missed opportunities.
One problem that spelled struggle for Hofstra's offense was Juan’ya Green shooting 1-for-7 in the half. Mihalich tried to get his team to regroup after the Pride fell to an eight-point deficit with 9:27 remaining in the first period.
The Explorers offense continued to find the right groove and ran all over the Pride defense to take an 11-point lead with less than three minutes left in the half.
Hofstra refused to roll over as they started to chip away at the lead in the final minutes of the half. The pride went on a 7-4 run to shrink the lead to an eight points by halftime.
Hofstra was 13-for-34 shooting in the first half while the Explorers made 18-of-33 shots. Tanksley was the only Pride player to score in double-digits by the half with 11 points.
Tanksley was the only Pride player to efficiently drive the ball down low and score in the first 20 minutes of regulation, the rest of the team made either one shot or none inside the arc.
Brian Bernardi and Jamall Robinson did well shooting outside the arc, each made two 3-pointers in the half to add some much-needed support to the Pride offense in order to keep the score within reach.
The second half featured La Salle controlling the game slightly less efficiently, giving some momentum back to Hofstra. But in the end, the Explorers kept the Pride’s scoring low enough to maintain their lead throughout the entire second half.
Although, La Salle nearly lost control at one moment when the Pride made a 9-0 run and brought the score to a one-point difference. Tanksley led the rally from outside the arc to score three, then Malik Nichols drove in and made a layup followed by a free-throw, and Tanksley capped off the rally with another three-pointer to cut the lead to one.
Things were looking bright for the Pride until La Salle showed signs of their first half performance to control the game and put themselves ahead by seven under the 13-minute mark.
Hofstra felt the pressure and reverted to missing shots again. After the 9-0 rally, the Pride went 1-for-10 shooting, which contributed to the Explorers propelling to an 11-point lead in a span of 5:21.
"We just didn’t take good shots, but that’s a credit to their defense,” said Mihalich. “They made us feel uncomfortable.”
La Salle maintained their lead by at least six points—the highest point it reached was 17 points— all the way to the last five minutes of regulation. The Explorers finish off opponents efficiently, holding a 61-3 record leading into the last five minutes of any game since the 2011-12 season.
The Explorers then extended their lead to 17 points with less than three-and-a-half minutes to go. Hofstra competed to the end though, cutting La Salle’s lead to nine points within the final seconds thanks to a 10-2 run. Nonetheless, La Salle still comfortably led at the final buzzer, winning 83-74.
The Pride was outmatched scoring inside the paint, as La Salle scored 44 points to Hofstra’s 28. Second chances played against the Pride as well as La Salle led in that category 12 points to Hofstra’s four.
One bright side for the Pride was Malik Nichols’ performance with another near double-double on nine points as well nine rebounds.
Plus, Moussa Kone competing again shows positive signs as he played for 18 minutes in the game, five more minutes than when he returned to action in the previous matchup against Columbia. Kone dealt with an injury since the season opener against Jacksonville.
Joe Mihalich currently stands at 1-2 against his alma mater as a head coach. Mihalich was an assistant coach with the Explorers for 17 years and was a former guard for La Salle from 1974-1978.
The next matchup for Mihalich’s squad takes place at the Barclay’s Center on Dec. 28 against the LIU- Brooklyn Blackbirds. The game will tip at 2:30 p.m.