Hofstra fends off William & Mary behind monster nights from Gustys, Pemberton
Rokas Gustys turned back the clock and delivered a 22-point, 21-rebound performance reminiscent of his stellar 2015 season and while Justin Wright-Foreman drilled a game-sealing three-pointer with less than a minute to go in a 90-84 win over the Tribe of the College of William & Mary on Thursday night at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex.
“The battle cry when we play against a team like that is, they’re going to score some points and we need to outscore them, and we did,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich after the game.
Over the past few seasons, the Hofstra and -William & Mary matchup has turned into quite possibly the premier rivalry in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), and Thursdaylast night’s installment lived up to the hype.
Two of the best strongest offenses in the conference did what they do best: shoot the basketball. Both The teams took a combined 53 three-pointers, and while the Tribe may have shot the deep ball a bit more efficiently, Hofstra was able to knock down one more three-pointer, a three-ball that couldn’t have come at a bigger moment for the Pride.
With just under a minute left, and with William & Mary on a 6-0 run to cut the Pride’s lead to just 80-76, the ball found its way into the hands of Justin Wright-Foreman.
Up until that point, Wright-Foreman had been having an inauspicious night from the field, and had been held to just six points in the second half.
None of this mattered to the junior from Queens, who ha’s been on the fast-trackfast track to CAA Player of the Year all season. He dribbled the shot clock all the way down, and then calmly drilled a three-pointer with 30 seconds left, making it an 83-76 Hofstra lead. When the Tribe couldn’t convert on their trip down the floor, the game was all but iced.
Free throws from Wright-Foreman and Eli Pemberton down the stretch made it official, as Hofstra avenged an earlier loss to William & Mary this season, and pulled into a tie for third place in the CAA with just three games to play.
“Third place is good, but it’s not first,” Pemberton said. “We have three games left, so we’re going to take care of business.”
Pemberton’s last couple of free throws put him at a game-high 26 points, continuing a stretch of hot games for the sophomore. In his last five games, Pemberton has scored 20 or more points four times.
“It’s a good time to be hot,” Pemberton said. “I have to stay hot, and stay consistent … [T]the team wants to get to March Madness.”
Even with the game-high in scoring, Pemberton’s performance couldn’t help but be a little overshadowed by the efforts of Gustys, who played as efficiently as we’ve seen all season.
Thursday marked the Lithuanian big man’s third career 20-20 game, with both of his previous efforts coming back as a sophomore in 2015 on a CAA-runner up team with Juan’ya Green, one of the program’s all-time greats at the helm.
With another Hofstra great in Wright-Foreman getting him the ball, along with Desure Buie, Gustys found himself with a number of open layups right at the cup.
“We try to take what the defense gives us,” Mihalich said. “When we get people moving, and we get the ball moving, it doesn’t matter who the other team is, it’s tough to pick up your assignments.”
Gustys also helped himself at the charity stripe, knocking down six free throws.
Wright-Foreman would finish with 19 points and a season-high seven assists, and Jalen Ray had himself a big night with 13 points off the bench, including four three-pointers.
Ray also had three steals and was a general agitator on the defensive end where –, even though it may not be reflected in the final score –, the Pride had one of their best efforts yet this year.
“I’m really proud of this team for playing the way we played on the defensive end, especially against this team,” Mihalich said. “I know that’ll get some chuckles, because they scored 84 points, but that team [William & Mary] is going to score 84 every night.”
For the Tribe, Justin Pierce had 24 points and 14 rebounds. Despite being down by as many as 15 in the first half, William & Mary kept it close right to the final buzzer, something that fans of this blossoming rivalry have come to expect over the last few years.
Hofstra will look to seize this momentum heading into a Saturday afternoon showdown with Drexel University. The Dragons are on a three-game losing streak, and Hofstra knocked off Drexel in Philadelphia earlier in the season.
Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at the Mack Sports Complex.