Men's basketball stays undefeated in CAA play with win over JMU
The Hofstra men’s basketball team continued their undefeated run in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play, picking up their 15th consecutive win in an 85-68 effort over the James Madison University (JMU) Dukes at the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Justin Wright-Foreman led all scorers with 23 points and Eli Pemberton continued his hot streak with his third consecutive 20-point outing.
“We’re proud of the win,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich. “It’s a tough place to play and it’s a tough team to beat.”
At first, the game seemed like it would be a tough one for the Pride, as the Dukes came out aggressive and Hofstra was playing with a lack of control. Early turnovers, missed free throws and a pair of offensive fouls allowed the Dukes to jump out to an early 9-4 lead. However, a pair of three-pointers, including a 30-footer from Wright-Foreman, helped Hofstra take the lead. From there, it went back and forth until Hofstra went up 18-17 midway through the first half – a lead they would never relinquish for the rest of the game. They went on a 27-16 run over the last 10:37 of the half to take a 42-33 lead at the midway point.
The first half ended with what may turn out to be the highlight of the year for the Pride. With three seconds left, Hofstra forced the Dukes to take and miss a fadeaway. From there, Pemberton caught the rebound and drilled a 90-foot, full court heave at the buzzer. While not officially measured yet, the shot will go down as one of the longest, if not the longest, made basket in college basketball history, rivaled by Marshall University’s Bruce Morris in 1985.
“[I] just had to let it fly,” Pemberton said, smiling. “[I] saw one second left on the clock, [I] just let it go and thank God [it went in].”
This shot gave the team momentum, which they used to stave off an early 10-5 run from the Dukes in the second half, which cut the lead down to as low as six. From there, Hofstra went on a 15-3 run and never allowed the lead to be under double digits for the rest of the game.
A key factor for the Pride late in the first half and for all of the second half was their on-ball pressure. They used a matchup zone, a defensive strategy that’s reliant on switching matchups frequently. In order to beat this zone, the Dukes had to frequently swing the ball around the three-point line and shoot well from outside, two things that play into Hofstra’s strength on defense. The Pride ranks No. 2 in the CAA in three-point defense and steals per game. While this pressure wasn’t as apparent early in the game, they picked it up late in the first half, tallying three steals in the last 2:10 of the half, leading to four points. In the second half, they added four more steals and scored 11 points off turnovers.
“We changed this defense up a lot, more than people think. Our guys are really in sync out there,” Mihalich said. “[When] one guy moves, the other four are moving too ... We’re just playing off of each other really well defensively.”
Hofstra also gained an advantage from the free throw line, as they attempted 29 free throws, as opposed to the Dukes’ 15. This is not only a testament to their aggression on offense, but their discipline and strategy on defense, as forcing the Dukes out of the paint kept them off the free throw line as well.
Along with 20 points and the buzzer beater, Pemberton added eight rebounds, two assists and two steals, coming off of a week in which he earned CAA Player of the Week.
This was the beginning of a three-game road trip for the Pride. They look to extend the nation’s longest win streak when they travel to Towson, Maryland to take on the Towson University Tigers at the SECU Arena on Saturday, Jan. 25. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.