By Mike Rudin and Kyle Kandetzki - Sports Editor and Assistant Sports Editor
Dion Nesmith leaped through the air to hit the game-winning shot to propel Hofstra over Stony Brook 66-65. The Pride downed the Wagner Seahawks 93-71 at the Mack on Sunday afternoon, led behind an outstanding performance from Juan’ya Green.
Six years ago was the last time the two universities played each other, yet the rivalry is as alive as ever. Hofstra came away with their second win of the season and their 19th win out of 23 matchups against Stony Brook in program history.
“A great win for us. I thought it was two teams that went toe-to-toe, fought their brains out and competed like crazy and fortunately we were the team to make the last shot,” said head coach Joe Mihalich.
Nesmith recalled his game-winning shot, “Ameen was dribbling the ball up, play was actually to get the ball to Juan’ya and they kind of faced guard me cause of the ball. Ameen passed the ball to me, I saw the shot clock was running down and I went to go make a play.”
The crowd made their presence well known through the game, especially the last minute, adding to the intensity of the rivalry between these two teams.
Nesmith took notice of the atmosphere, “I thought the crowd was great. Especially when we made a big shot and the crowd started chanting ‘De-fense! De-fense!’ that kind of got us going a little bit [more].”
“[The game and rivalry] shows how important it is and how much fun it can be for everybody,” said Mihalich. “It’s what college basketball is all about.”
Green also felt the crowd’s presence during the game. “The crowd was there, good atmosphere, we didn’t play as well in the second half but I think overall we played a good game,” said Green.
After the first half ended with the Pride down 25-30, they stepped up their game and outscored Stony brook 41-35 in the second half to ultimately take the game.
Hofstra increased their percentages in two-pointers, three-pointers and free throws by at least 20 percent. From the first half to the second half, the Pride improved from 33.3 to 65.4 percent in field goals, 10 to 50 percent in three-point field goals and 40 to 66.7 percent in free throws.
The last five minutes came down to the wire for the Pride as the team was down 54-61 with 5:03 left to make a comeback. After several missed scoring opportunities from both sides, Ameen Tanksley sinks a three to cut the lead 57-61 with 3:56 left.
Rokas Gustys steals the ball following the play and sets up Brian Bernardi for the three-pointer and he scores to cut the lead to one as well as drawing a foul on Stony Brook Player Rayshaun McGrew. Bernardi tied the game at 61 a piece with 3:23 left in regulation. After Green shot a free throw, Nesmith scored the last four points in the last 33 seconds to provide the win.
Green led the Pride scoring with 22 points and Nesmith second in command with 18 points. Green shot 9 out of 15 attempts inside the arc and had made four out of five free throws. Nesmith shot 7 out of 11 opportunities as he thrived scoring inside the three-point perimeter.
A major threat to the Pride was Jameel Warney, who shot 26 points in the game despite the loss for the Seawolves.
“We still had control of the game and it was just one shot that went in, but it [is] not all about that shot. We had a lot of turnovers, if we just didn’t turn the ball over 19 times. [Then] a few more shots we [would] get back up, and it wouldn’t have gone down to the end of the game,” said Warney. He had 14 total rebounds as well as two blocks and two steals.
Tanksley and Rokas Gustys stepped up for the Pride on both the offensive and defensive fronts. Tanksley shot 14 points as well as leading the team in seven rebounds; Gustys led the Pride with five steals and four assists in the game as well as shooting four points.
Rayshaun McGrew backed up Warnery, shooting 13 points in the game for the Seawolves. McGrew also put up seven total rebounds in 26 minutes of playing time on the night. The one flaw in his game was the six turnovers he committed.
The last time the two teams played was on Dec. 8 and the Pride came out with a victory 61-56. The win provided a huge momentum shift and confidence boost as Hofstra went into Sunday’s game against Wagner College.
Whereas the Stony Brook game was a battle from start to finish, the clash between Hofstra and Wagner College on Sunday seemed over right from the start.
Green’s double-double on 24 points and 11 assists, while fellow Philly native Tanksley followed him with 17 points to pave the way for the win by 22 points.
“We had a bit of a hangover after such an exciting win on Friday night,” said Mihalich. “But I think our guys really answered the bell, and we were aggressive in the first half.”
In the opening minutes of the game, it seemed as if it was Gustys’ afternoon to dominate, scoring six of the Pride’s first nine points. Amid Gustys’ scoring tear Wagner was able to hold their biggest lead of the game… a one-point advantage 3:30 into the game.
But neither early-game trend would stay for long, as Hofstra took back the lead shortly after, and Gustys wouldn’t score again for the remainder of the day. Gustys only got seven minutes on the floor, which Mihalich cited was due to resting a leg injury he was playing through.
The three-point shot would create an early distance between Hofstra and Wagner, with back-to-back scores from Nesmith and Tanksley. At this point the score was 15-7 and the Seahawks wouldn’t even come close from there on out.
There were several deficiencies that Wagner had that led to their loss, but the standout issue was having absolutely no answer for Green.
Green started off his night with a high-speed fast break score midway through the first half, and was unstoppable for the remainder of the period. Green already had 14 points at halftime, and was perfect from the field and the free throw line.
Green’s ability to dish the ball aided the Pride to a 73 percent field goal percentage on his six assists. The Pride made the game feel out of reach already, with a halftime score of 47-30.
The second half wasn’t quite as impressive, as Hofstra would only outscore Wagner by five points, though it was obvious who was the better team.
“We had a couple of lulls in the second half and got a little careless with the basketball,” said Mihalich. “[Wagner] put their heads down and just went and we could’ve handled that better.”
As Mihalich put his team into a rotation with his starters sitting extra time, the errors racked up with 12 turnovers. Wagner capitalized with 16 points off of them, while the Hofstra offense took its foot off the pedal, only shooting 36 percent in the final half.
But Green and Tanskley would continue to lead the Pride, as Tanskley sunk three shots from behind the arc, while Green aided by drawing fouls and hitting six free throws. And though the less impressive performance, Hofstra went into victory formation in the final minutes of the game, and took the win 93-71.
On the stat sheet, every Hofstra player scored a point, including Jamall Robinson having an impressive 13-point performance.
“It’s great to see all the guys in there and getting some points,” said Mihalich. “You see Daryl Fowlkes get to knock down a few foul shots, and nights like that always make for a happy locker room.”