By Anders Jorstad - STAFF WRITER The Hofstra Pride men’s basketball opened up the Paradise Jam with a bang, upsetting the Florida State Seminoles by a score of 82-77. The matchup against Florida State might have been the most difficult contest the Pride has to face during the regular season.
The Seminoles boast a lot of young talent, including a trio of freshmen who were ranked in the ESPN Top 100 list for recruits. In addition, Florida State was garnering votes in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches polls prior to the contest.
Hofstra came out of the gates firing away from deep, trying to keep up with a high-octane Seminoles offense that scored 109 points in its opening contest. The Pride and Florida State went into the second media timeout tied 16-16. After being tied 20-20, Hofstra went out to a 7-0 run fueled by a hot shooting hand from Brian Bernardi, paired with some strong defense that forced a pair of turnovers.
The two teams traded buckets for the remainder of the half and the squads went into halftime with a 41-35 Pride advantage. Bernardi dropped 19 points in the first half thanks to five three-pointers and it often seemed like the Staten Island native couldn’t miss from long range. Meanwhile, Florida State was 0-for-10 on three-point attempts in the first period.
The Seminoles came into the second half with a plan: get to the free throw line and get the Pride into foul trouble. Malik Nichols was the first Hofstra player to foul out. He registered his fifth foul with nearly 11 minutes to go in the game, as the forward was only able to log 10 total minutes on the night.
Sophomore center Rokas Gustys earned his fourth foul with 14 minutes remaining in the game and Coach Joe Mihalich decided to sit him down for a while in favor of Andre Walker. The Pride continued to hold off the Seminoles by getting to the free throw line as well and led 64-61 with nine minutes to go.
At this point the Pride defense would tighten up, holding Florida State scoreless for three full minutes as the Seminoles struggled to hit their free throws. The Pride would pile on the free throws and extended the lead to 72-63 with five minutes to go. Gustys came back into the game only to get his fifth foul and the referees started calling fouls against Walker in bunches.
With just one minute left, Florida State started hitting shots from long range and pulled to within two points at 77-75. Walker fouled out with 12 seconds to go and the Seminoles trailed 80-77 with one final chance to tie the game. Rathan Mayes-Xavier’s last chance three rimmed out and Bernardi hit a pair of free throws to seal the 82-77 victory.
Brian Bernardi led all scorers with 24 points including six three-pointers. Point guard Juan’ya Green added 17 points and a game-high seven assists. Despite missing some playing time due to foul trouble, Rokas Gustys pulled down 11 rebounds in 23 minutes of play. Hofstra’s defense did well to hold star shooting guard Dwayne Bacon to just nine points on 3-for-9 shooting.
With the win, the Pride move to 3-0 on the season and proved that even when depth issues emerged in the front line, they could compete with very talented teams. The Seminoles look to be a top team in one of the most competitive conferences in the country and the win should bolster a possible NCAA tournament resume. Time will tell how much this win will help the team going forward, but it should at least serve as a nice confidence booster.
Hofstra’s second round matchup pits the team against the South Carolina Gamecocks, another impressive squad from a talented Southeast Conference. The game will tip off at 9pm on Sunday.