Men's basketball clinches No. 1 seed in CAA Tournament with win over Drexel
The Hofstra Pride Men’s basketball team defeated the Drexel Dragons 80-77 on Thursday night, Feb. 28, in Philadelphia to clinch the No. 1 seed for the CAA Tournament and at least a share of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) regular season title.
“We’re really proud of that,” said Hofstra head coach, Joe Mihalich. “That’s hard to do. It’s hard to win one game in this league.”
Although Mihalich is proud of what the team did at this point in the season, he is not fully satisfied yet.
“Everyone wants the bid to the NCAA Tournament,” he said.
Justin Wright-Foreman led the Pride with 32 points, complimented by Eli Pemberton’s 15.
The Pride started off the game with a 6-5 lead after Desure Buie’s two jumpers and Pemberton’s layup. The Dragons were up 13-6 at the first media timeout due to Alihan Jemir’s six consecutive points and a layup by James Butler. Butler made the free throw coming back from the first media timeout to put Drexel up 14-6.
Jacquil Taylor made a layup to end the 9-0 scoring run. The Pride went on a 10-0 scoring run and eventually scored 20 out of the next 29 points. The Pride pulled away thanks to three-pointers from Wright-Foreman and Jalen Ray. At the end of the first half, the Pride were up 39-33.
The Dragons came back fighting in the second half. Demir scored the first eight points for the Dragons to eventually cut the deficit to one. After a layup by Wright-Foreman, the Dragons scored the next six points to go up 47-44. The Dragons lead went as high as four points before Wright-Foreman’s three-pointer made it 53-52 Drexel at the second media timeout.
Wright-Foreman got hot for the Pride down the stretch, scoring the Pride’s next eight points on a jumper and two from beyond the arc to make it 60-58 Pride, but his hot hand went to the bench due to having four fouls with eight minutes to go. In Wright-Foreman’s roughly four-minute absence, Desure Buie took over for the Pride, scoring five of the Pride’s next seven points.
Wright-Foreman came back into the game with the hot hand he had going to the bench, scoring the Pride’s next five points to give them a 72-68 lead with 2:42 to go.
After a layup by Taylor and a three-pointer from Drexel’s John Trevor, Ray nailed two free throws to put the Pride up 76-71 with 47 seconds left. The Dragons then fouled the Pride as much as possible to save time, but Buie and Wright-Foreman hit a pair of free throws to maintain the lead.
Wright-Foreman fouled the Dragons’ Cameron Wynter beyond the arc, giving Wynter three chances at the line with his team down four. He made the first shot but missed the next two. Hofstra held on to a three-point lead.
Drexel got the offensive rebound with two seconds left, but Hofstra knocked the ball out of bounds which gave Drexel a chance to pass it in.
Demir got the ball with a wide-open look from three. He had the chance to cause déjà vu for the Pride, who were coming off a loss to James Madison University in which Matt Lewis sent the game to overtime with a last second three in regulation, but the Pride prevailed after Demir’s shot went off the rim.
Pemberton scored 12 of his 15 points in the first 20 minutes. In the second half, Wright-Foreman went 8-10 from the field and 4-5 from three en route to 23 second-half points.
“[Pemberton] was terrific in the first half, [and Wright-Foreman was] in the second,” Mihalich said. “This team just finds a way to win.”
The Pride started with the 2-3 zone defense before switching to man and 1-3-1.
“We didn’t like anything of any defense we played,” Mihalich said. “We got to figure some stuff out here.”
The Pride are now 24-6 overall and 14-3 in conference play. The Dragons fell to 7-10 against the CAA and 13-17 overall.
The Pride wrap up the regular season on the road against the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens on Saturday, March 2. Because the Northeastern Huskies beat Delaware Thursday night, the Pride need the win Saturday to clinch the outright CAA regular season title. Tipoff is at 4 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Hofstra Athletics