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Bernardi spurs comeback behind record-breaking effort in opening night win over Canisius

Chris Owens/The Chronicle Brain Bernardi led the Pride with 26 points, going 8-for-11 beyond the arc, in Hofstra's season opener By Kevin Carroll - ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

Brian Bernardi got his 2015-16 season started in a big way, shattering the Hofstra men’s basketball record for three-pointers in a game with eight. His effort carried the Pride to a 96-85 win over Canisius College in the season opener Friday night at the Mack Sports Complex.

“It was a very mature win,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich after the game. “We could have panicked…that’s a win that could really pay dividends for us.”

Six players scored in double-figures for the Pride, but it was Bernardi leading the way, scoring 26 points on 8-11 shooting from beyond the arc. Five of those came in the second half, when the Pride found itself trailing the Golden Griffins, and in need of a spark.

“There are guys that can shoot, and there are shooters. Brian’s a shooter,” said Mihalich.

Hofstra got off to a surprisingly slow start to begin the game, with Canisius running all over the Pride, scoring seemingly at will. At one point, the Golden Griffins stretched their lead to 18 points in the first half, and looked primed to put this game out of reach early.

But Hofstra was able to settle in, finishing the first half on a 22-9 run, the last basket coming on a buzzer-beating tip in from graduate transfer Denton Koon to make it a 47-45 lead for Canisius heading into halftime.

The Pride looked like it was going to continue rolling as the team came out for the second half. Koon tied the game up with his first three-pointer, and Rokas Gustys put the Pride ahead with a layup. But the Golden Griffins battled back to take the lead, and slowly built the lead up to 11 points with just nine minutes left to play.

Bernardi answered with a three-pointer to cut the lead to seven, and the Pride fought their way back, with another Bernardi three-ball (his seventh of the night, tying the Hofstra school record) cutting Canisius’ lead to just one with 5:14 left to play.

The Golden Griffins were able to push the lead back up to two points, but Bernardi answered with his third three-pointer of the half, putting the Pride ahead by one.

Canisius’ Malcolm McMillan, who had a monster game with 33 points for the Golden Griffins, put his team back in front, but Juan’ya Green, who had been having a quiet night, put the Pride ahead with a layup.

Matt Valenti missed a jumper to put Canisius back in the lead, and Green came back and hit his first three of the game, putting the Pride ahead by four with just under two minutes to play.

Green also hit two free-throws next time down the floor, and then Bernardi put the game on ice with his eighth three-pointer of the evening, breaking Hofstra’s school record for three-pointers in a game. When the final buzzer rang, Hofstra was on top, winning the season opener 96-85.

“We never lost our composure, we believed in ourselves, we made plays…that’s what winning teams do,” said Mihalich.

For the Pride, Green had 16 points, 13 in the second half, and also had 11 assists. Gustys and Malik Nichols finished the game with identical 13 point, 10 rebound performances. Koon also had a solid performance, scoring 14 points in his first game as a member of the Pride.

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