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Gustys scores career-high, Pride trumps Pioneers to win back-to-back

Chris Owens/The Chronicle Rokas Gustys collected a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. He played only 16 minutes on the court because of four personal fouls. By Mike Rudin – SPORTS EDITOR

Hofstra men’s basketball finished their non-conference schedule on a high note as the Pride surpassed the Sacred Heart Pioneers 80-73 on Monday night at the Mack Sports Complex.

“We found a way to pull it out,” Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich said after the win. “[But] I think it comes back to attitude and effort ... you can see when the attitude and effort weren’t the right way.”

Hofstra did not take a lead over Sacred Heart for 22 minutes and 14 seconds in the middle of the game. It wasn't until the last 10 minutes Hofstra came back.

"We played defense [better at the end]," Mihalich said. "[But] we got to decide to show up every night. I don't know who we beat in our conference playing the way we played tonight."

Rokas Gustys put up a career-high 17 points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes on the court for the Pride. Juan’ya Green flourished in the second half. Green finished the night with 22 points, five rebounds and six assists and Brian Bernardi scored 18 points.

The game went back-and-forth early on between the Pride and Pioneers, the lead changed or tied seven times in the opening five minutes.

Yet as the game progressed, Rokas Gustys had the hot hand which kept Hofstra on top of Sacred Heart.

He scored nine points – 3-for-4 from the charity stripe – and three rebounds to spark the Pride offense in the first 10 minutes alone.

Hofstra stayed on top in the midst of the first half for seven minutes and 19 seconds until Sacred Heart retaliated.

The Pioneers tied it up with 8:12 until halftime and then scored seven points, Ameen Tanksley fended off Sacred Heart’s chances to take control with back-to-back threes which limited SHU’s lead to one point.

But the major drive for the Pioneers was their 3-for-3, 6-0 run afterwards which granted them a seven-point lead. SHU’s Jordan Allen contributed four of the six points with back-to-back shots in the arc.

After his last basket, Allen was granted one chance at the charity stripe and converted to boost Sacred Heart’s lead to eight with 3:56 left until halftime.

Despite the recent surge, Hofstra refused to roll over and fought back with their own 6-0 rally.

Brian Bernardi got the ball moving first at the free-throw line converting both times. Then Denton Koon put up a layup followed by another one from Bernardi which cut the deficit to two points.

Hofstra started to rev up but Allen struck again with a layup to put SHU up by four with a minute-53 seconds left at the half.

Green tried to pull Hofstra closer to a tie or a lead before halftime with back-to-back free throws. But it was too little too late once Sacred Heart’s Cane Broom delivered one last layup which put SHU ahead 41-37 at halftime.

Broome delivered 18 points in the first 20 minutes for the Pioneers and Sacred Heart more than double Hofstra scoring in the paint 28-14 as a unit.

Green struggled the most offensively on the court in the first 20 minutes, he went 0-for-4 and only compiled two points from the charity stripe.

On the other hand, Gustys has been the biggest contributor with 11 points and five rebounds. Plus, Bernardi’s hot hand raised his total to 10 points at the half.

The beginning of the second half wasn’t much better for Hofstra as they started on the wrong side of a 7-0 rally within the first 1:58.

Bernardi broke the streak with a foul in his favor that allowed him to go back-to-back at the free-throw line. But SHU erased it thanks to Eyimofe Edukugho’s layup which pushed the Pioneers’ lead to 11 points over the Pride.

Things seemed bleak for Hofstra, being down 50-39 but with 17 minutes left, until Green started to get hot. He produced four points in span of less than a minute to cut SHU’s lead to eight points.

Then Gustys took over with putting up three layups for the Pride which put them back into contention, down by four points.

Yet, a speed bump in Hofstra’s momentum occurred with Edukugho scored two free throws for Sacred Heart.

Both teams resulted back to exchanging points after Koon shot a three followed by a three from SHU’s Matej Buovac. The Pioneers tried to hold their lead as long as possible.

Also, Hofstra started to have their hands full once Gustys and Tanksley both compiled four personal fouls apiece which forced them to take some time to the sidelines.

Sacred Heart’s lead fluctuated a bit but they maintained a steady lead in the midst of the second half. The Pioneers also got into hot water in terms of foul trouble with three players have four personal fouls apiece with 7:32 left.

But the Pride turned the tables against Sacred Heart with an 11-3 rally as Hofstra took a five-point lead which became the turning point of the game.

With 3:20 left, hope was brewing for the Pride to kill the clock and finish the game with a win.

The game grew tense by the end with Sacred Heart’s Buovac made a three to cut Hofstra’s lead to three points with one minute and eight seconds left.

But any concerns of a Sacred Heart upset withered as Hofstra pulled away ahead by seven as time drained out.

Hofstra concluded their non-conference schedule with an 8-4 record and they’ll start conference play on Dec. 31 versus University of Delaware at the Mack Sports Complex, tipoff is at 1 p.m.

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