By Kyle Kandetzki - Assistant Sports Editor The Hofstra Pride found themselves in an unfamiliar spot coming into Sunday’s meeting with LIU-Brooklyn: with the task of climbing back from consecutive losses. Coach Mihalich’s squad was easily up to the task.
The Pride men’s basketball team traveled to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for a ‘neutral court’ game against the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, with Hofstra handling LIU easily in an 88-62 win. Hofstra was led behind the program’s first triple-double from Juan’ya Green and 32 points from fellow Niagara transfer Ameen Tanksley.
“[The previous losses] were like getting the last touch of flu out of our system,” said head coach Joe Mihalich. “To get this one today feels good, right before league play too.”
The only part of the non-conference battle that was not totally controlled by the Pride was the opening few minutes. Turnovers were traded on both sides, and the score was knotted at seven apiece at the four-minute mark.
But once the game got rolling, Hofstra showed the fans occupying the home of the Brooklyn Nets what their offense was all about, as well as flashes of defensive brilliance. Hofstra limited the Blackbirds to just 25 points in the opening half thanks in part to LIU’s 27% shooting from the field, and a 1-for-11 mark from beyond the arc. The defense showed major improvements after surrendering 44 in the first half to La Salle in their previous game.
The Pride’s typical offensive onslaught did not disappoint either, racking up 45 points in the opening period. Tanksley was already on fire from the floor, scoring 17 points, while Brian Bernardi had nine, all on three-pointers. LIU-Brooklyn’s lack of standout scorers put the team way behind early on, with only one player obtaining more than four points at the break.
When the game already seemed out of reach as the second half progressed, fans turned to the noticeably impressive statistical play of Juan’ya Green. Green entered the break with a diverse stat line of 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, and came back with passing prowess that many have come to expect from the point guard.
“We always share the ball, so that is no surprise to me,” said Mihalich. “To have twenty assists is just how we play the ball.”
Tanksley’s ability to score from any spot on the floor aided Green’s assist total, as he would make step back threes, and come back and breeze by a defender for an easy layup score shortly after. Under the hoop, more rebounds were up for grabs for Green, as Malik Nichols (10.8 RPG over the last four games) played a limited role of just eight minutes.
Hofstra’s traveling fan section started to make noise in the closing minutes as Green sat at 15 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists, thanks in part to a lengthy possession where Green grabbed two quick offensive rebounds. With 2:30 to go, Green delivered the ball to Brian Bernardi, who knocked down his fourth deep ball of the day, giving Green ten assists, and the coveted triple-double.
“It’s about time [I reached the triple-double],” said Green. “I always work hard on both ends grabbing the boards and passing to my teammates.”
Green’s triple-double was just the sixth in all of DI basketball this season, and the first in Hofstra’s program history. The performance almost seemed quiet (as quiet as a triple-double can be) thanks to Tanksley’s never ending flow of buckets, adding fifteen points in the closing period. His final total was 32 points, behind 60% shooting, five threes, and eight boards.
“I was just excited to get my first chance to play on an NBA floor,” said Tanksley. “I think my consistency shooting after practice [got me to this level of play].”
Dion Nesmith was the fourth and final player to score in double figures with 13 points on an efficient 4-for-8 night. Jamall Robinson saw a season high 36 minutes, coming right off the bench and adding 9 rebounds. Hofstra out-rebounded the Blackbirds 45-33.
The game was not a completely clean one for either team, as Hofstra turned the ball over 12 times to LIU-Brooklyn’s 11. Beyond the stats, many rebounds and passes rolled loosely about the floor on several possessions for both squads.
The Pride cruised to their victory in the final minutes, and though LIU-Brooklyn improved to 45% from the field in the last twenty minutes, Hofstra still came out on top by 26, winning 88-62.
The 8-4 Pride now have a short break before traveling to New Britain, Conn. to complete their non-conference schedule against Central Connecticut State University on New Year’s Eve. Hofstra will then open up CAA play on the third day of 2015 against UNCW. Hofstra will look to start yet another winning streak, building off an exciting night in Brooklyn.
“[Great play] like this is why we do what we do,” said Mihalich, focusing on Green and Tanksley’s big nights. “We’ve only got 62 hours, 31 games to do we what we do, and I tell these guys to cherish that time.”