Pemberton leads Hofstra basketball to 14th consecutive win
Led by junior guard Eli Pemberton’s season-high 26 points, the Hofstra men’s basketball defeated Charleston 86-72 on Saturday, Jan. 19, at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex.
The Pride made quick work of the defending Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) champion, cementing themselves as the new favorites for the top spot in the conference. Not only did the Pride defeat a top rival, but they improved their impressive winning streak to 14 games, now the best mark in the nation.
“You have to earn your respect,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich. “There is no reason for them to respect us until now. Hopefully, we have gotten to the point where people respect us.”
Pemberton is emerging as a crucial scoring threat for the Pride, leading the team in this category for his second straight game. He tallied 24 points, including a dominant second half, in an 87-72 win over UNC-Wilmington on Thursday, Jan. 17.
“As a secondary playmaker, I try to get everyone involved,” Pemberton said. “Nobody in the country can cover Justin [Wright-Foreman], so I play off of him.”
Wright-Foreman went under the radar, scoring a humble 19 points, more than five points under his season average. However, he was still the leader on and off the court that has guided the Pride all season long.
The crowd at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex once again was present in full force. Home-court advantage has been huge for the Pride as they are undefeated at home this season.
The Pride struggled right out of the gate, but it was Pemberton who fittingly got the scoring started, driving to the hoop and finishing over the defender with his left hand to make the score 7-2. It was the first of many for the Pride’s second-leading scorer.
“When the going gets tough, when you go through tough times, a lot of players think about losing,” Mihalich said. “Our guys don’t do that. They think about winning. They think about what they have to do to win. And that is what good teams do.”
After cutting the deficit to 12-6 early in the first half, it was Pemberton who flipped the momentum, knocking down a three-pointer coming off a Dan Dwyer screen.
Shooting was not the only thing going well for the Pride – ball movement and the pick-and-roll led to many baskets early in the game.
Jacquil Taylor finished with 16 points, including many slam dunks and difficult layups. His play on the inside was critical for the Pride in a game against one of the best teams in the CAA.
“We have a good balance,” Mihalich said. “We have a guy we can throw the ball to and he will finish. He is really playing good basketball.”
Jalen Ray contributed 14 points off the bench, many of which were momentum-changing, clutch shots that helped improve the Pride’s lead.
“The star of the day today was [Ray],” Mihalich said. “[Ray] made big shots when we needed them. He had a lot of guts and a lot of courage and we really needed someone to give us a boost.”
The Pride entered halftime with a 42-34 lead, providing a cushion that allowed them to pull away late in the second half. Charleston kept it close, trailing by only one point with 10 minutes to go in the game, but the Pride kept fighting and emerged victorious.
“I think we are different this year, I really do,” Mihalich said. “There is a different makeup, a different chemistry, a different vibe. I think everyone thought we would win this game.”
The Pride improves to 5-6 in the all-time series against Charleston and snaps Charleston’s four-game winning streak in the matchup.
Grant Riller tallied 24 points for Charleston, but it was not enough, as they fall to 14-6 on the season and 3-4 in CAA play.
Thursday, Jan. 24, will be a big test for the Pride, as they travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia to take on James Madison University at 7 p.m.
Image courtesy of Hofstra Athletics