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Men's basketball returns home and snaps losing streak against FAU with back-to-back 11-2 runs

Mike Rudin/The Chronicle  Ameen Tanksley goes up shooting behind on the arc. He scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half alone. By Mike Rudin – SPORTS EDITOR

The winter-break games have begun and Hofstra men’s basketball returned home to the Mack Sports Complex on Tuesday night and the Pride came on top 68-54 over Florida Atlantic University.

After the win, the Hofstra Pride improved to 7-4 overall on the season and 6-3 against the FAU Owls in program history.

“Just a good, solid win. I thought it was one of those ‘take care of business’ wins,” Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich said after the game. “We talked before the game about toughness … This game honors toughness and we just got away from being tough for a couple of weeks.”

After coming off back-to-back road losses, the Pride started out on top and never looked back for all 40 minutes on the court.

Even though Hofstra initially lost the tipoff, the Pride attacked first with a three by Ameen Tanksley in the first 33 seconds.

Despite their constant lead, the Pride looked sporadic and out of sync early on the court. The main reasons to Hofstra’s struggle to fully control the game was lack of execution and miscommunication.

“We weren’t great offensively, Ameen [Tanksley] was great offensively but they did a good job with Brian [Bernardi] in the first half,” Mihalich said about his team and Bernardi who scored two points in the first 20 minutes.

In the opening minutes, Hofstra’s defense allowed the FAU Owls to stitch passes from the arc into the paint which resulted in back-to-back dunks for the Owls.

Florida Atlantic’s early passing strategy kept them in contention by one point. Later on, Hofstra’s slip ups aided the Owls’ efforts to not fall too far behind.

Throughout the majority of the first half, the Pride shot themselves in the foot with air balls during layup attempts coupled with sporadic decisions that gave the ball away. In the midst of the first, Rokas Gustys passed the ball to an unaware Bernardi which sailed out of bounds and Malik Nichols blocked a pass with his foot which turned into a kick ball violation.

Hofstra's mistakes fluctuated the Pride’s lead, which went back-and-forth, between seven points and two points after the first five minutes.

Yet, the Pride maintained their lead mainly because of Tanksley. He scattered nine points to keep Hofstra on top in the first 17 minutes and he produced the bulk of a crucial run down the stretch before the end of the first half.

With less than three minutes left until halftime, FAU cut Hofstra’s lead down to two points and threatened to take the lead before starting the second.

But after a layup by Nichols, Tanksley was the catalyst that kept Hofstra on top with back-to-back threes which sparked an 11-2 run in the last two and half minutes of the half.

Hofstra took a 34-23 lead going into halftime, Tanksley’s 15 points and Juan’ya Green’s 10 points helped solidify their lead.

The Pride outshot the Owls 14-6 in the paint and Hofstra shot for 41.9 percent within the arc in the first 20 minutes. Plus, Hofstra excelled scoring off turnovers 12-5 and second chances 8-0.

Hofstra propelled off their success at the end of the first half with another 11-2 run to start the second within the first the first three minutes.

Thanks to Denton Koon, Gustys and Bernardi, Hofstra took a 20-point lead with approximately 17 minutes left to go.

After that point, Hofstra’s lead over FAU didn’t fall under 10 points for the remainder of the game.

The Pride’s defense tightened up and played better which kept the Owls at bay. Plus, a collection of Pride players stepped up with better second-half performances.

Koon contributed more in the second half with five points and seven rebounds while Gustys contributed with five points and four rebounds. Bernardi stepped up scoring with eight points in the last 20 minutes.

Hofstra out-rebounded Florida Atlantic 25-13 in the second half which played into their success and allowed the Pride to finish the job with more than enough room to spare by 14 points.

All in all, Tanksley was the best all-around player with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Green was the second-best with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists. Bernardi was the only other Pride player to reach double digits on offense with 10 points.

Defensively, Gustys and Koon were the two main pieces: Koon had 11 rebounds and Gustys compiled 10.

Hofstra will return back to the Mack on Dec. 28 against Sacred Heart University at 7 p.m. for their final non-conference matchup and their final game of 2015.

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