At just a glance, Sunday afternoon’s 96-73 loss to the powerhouse University of Kentucky Wildcats appeared to be just that, a blowout loss in which the Wildcats were able to overpower and outmatch the Hofstra men’s team, cruising to a victory over a much smaller opponent without little resistance from the Pride.
But actually, for the Hofstra faithful, the Pride may have departed the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with a lot more to look forward to than the otherwise-lopsided final score would suggest.
Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich said it best in the postgame press conference when he remarked that “if you do the math, with the last three minutes of the first half, an the first four minutes of the second half, Kentucky went on a 26-3 run, and that was the difference in the game.”
Mihalich’s math is correct: before hitting that cold seven-minute stretch spanning the end of the first and the beginning of the second halves, Hofstra was only down 36-33.
It was simply too much for the Pride to keep up with the freak athleticism that the Wildcats bring to the floor, but Hofstra still managed to win the battle on the offensive glass by an impressive 19-12 margin, and made it to the free-throw line 37 times, while Kentucky only managed to get there 21 times.
Senior point guard Deron Powers led the charge to the charity stripe, attacking the basket relentlessly, and sinking nine of his team-high 18 points from the line. Another bright spot was the performance of sophomore Justin Wright-Foreman, who dropped 14 points in just 17 minutes off the bench.
Wright-Foreman, who started the first game of the year before taking on more of a sixth-man role, proved that he could still go out and take care of business when necessary, as was the case on Sunday, and will be crucial for Hofstra as we turn the corner and head toward the back half of the schedule.
Hofstra was sorely missing production from starters like Brian Bernardi, Ty Greer and Eli Pemberton.
Pemberton, the team’s leading scorer as a freshman, found himself in foul trouble and on the bench for long stretches.
Bernardi and Greer had off nights shooting the ball and were largely hampered by the Wildcat defense.
Standout center Rokas Gustys had an efficient night on offense, shooting 6-10 from the field, but the nation’s leading rebounder was held to just eight boards thanks to some physical play from the Wildcat bigs.
And yet, the Pride weren’t embarrassed on Sunday. They weren’t run out of the gym, like many expected the team would.
Win or loss, Hofstra should come out of Sunday’s game with a renewed sense of confidence, a confidence that may have shaken some members of the team – as well as many of the Pride’s fans – after surprising early-season losses to teams like Sacred Heart University and Manhattan College.
Kentucky was easily the Pride’s toughest obstacle on the schedule this year, and while the rest of the slate won’t be easy by any stretch, the experience gained from playing one of the top teams in the nation should bode well for the Pride.
After all, if Hofstra could hang with Kentucky for a good stretch of time, then surely this team should be able to handle the CAA schedule when the time comes.
No doubt, there are still a lot of flaws to be addressed if this team wants to make any noise going forward. But Sunday’s game, while the scoreboard may indicate otherwise, was a step in the right direction for Hofstra.
With the CAA looking to be wide-open as conference play draws nearer, hopefully Hofstra could capitalize on this big-game experience to string some wins together as the season progresses.