Hofstra earns a spot in the CAA Title game behind Wright-Foreman's 42 points
Once the postseason begins, the regular season means nothing.
The Hofstra men’s basketball team squeezed by with a 78-74 overtime win over the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens, a team they beat twice in the regular season, in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) semifinal matchup on Monday, March 11.
The Pride (27-6) won the two regular season games against the Blue Hens by an average of 33.5 points. But Hofstra only needed to score four more points than their opposition to advance to their first CAA Championship game since the 2015-16 season.
“[We are] definitely very anxious to play that game,” said senior guard Justin Wright-Foreman, who set a CAA tournament record with 42 points in Monday’s game. “We’re going to do the best we can to play as hard as we can.”
“These are the moments we practice for in the offseason,” sophomore Jalen Ray said. “This is the main focus. I’m really excited to play [Tuesday].”
“We’re going to really cherish this, because it’s really hard to do,” said Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich. “Ask the eight teams that are going home.”
The Blue Hens rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to send the game to overtime – their second double-digit halftime comeback in as many days.
The overtime period was a back-and-forth contest until there were less than 10 seconds on the clock. Down three, Delaware had possession but stepped out of bounds on the baseline. That forced the Blue Hens to foul, sending Ray to the free throw line with a chance to put the game away.
He hit both shots.
“I just thought, ‘This is the moment you’ve been waiting for,’” Ray said. “I pretend I’m in the gym by myself practicing free throws.”
Delaware freshman Ithiel Horton scored 19 points in the second half alone and had 21 total points in the game.
“I think [Horton] is terrific,” Mihalich said. “He’s a star already and I think he’s going to be a superstar.”
As a team, Delaware shot 62.5 percent in the final half of regulation.
Junior Tareq Coburn also chipped in for Hofstra with 13 points, 11 of which came in the first half.
The game was all Wright-Foreman and Coburn in the first half. The duo combined for 28 of the Pride’s 38 first-half points.
Delaware, who came back from a 14-point halftime deficit in their quarterfinal matchup on Sunday, March 10, picked up right where they left off, scoring the first five points of the game.
But a Coburn three-pointer got the Pride right back into it and a Jaquil Taylor block on the defensive end got the Hofstra crowd, who traveled upward of 770 miles, into it as well.
From there, Coburn and Wright-Foreman took control, combining for the team’s first 15 points of the game.
Nobody else scored for the Pride until Ray hit a three-pointer to give Hofstra the 18-16 lead with 8:40 remaining in the first half.
The Pride held on to the lead for the remainder of the first half, taking a 38-25 lead at the break.
That 13-point lead didn’t hold up.
Delaware went on a 26-12 run in the first 10 minutes of the second half to tie the game at 51.
“Our guys believe in themselves,” Mihalich said. “They know that if we play our game, we’re going to have a chance to win.”
The Pride proved they always have a chance to win, grinding out the victory in the overtime period.
The previous CAA tournament record for most points scored in a game was 37, reached most recently by Jordan Talley of UNC-Wilmington against Hofstra in last year’s tournament. Wright-Foreman’s game-high 42 points broke that record.
“I didn’t even know what [the record] was,” Wright-Foreman said. “I don’t pay any attention to that. I’m very honored, but we’ve got one more game to go.”
Monday night marked the 27th win of the year for the Pride, setting a program record for most wins in a season.
“These guys have a genuine passion for the game and love to play basketball,” Mihalich said. “They really like each other. It’s a band of brothers. They really play for each other.”
The Pride play for the CAA Title Tuesday, March 12, against Northeastern University. The winner earns a spot in the NCAA bracket. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Hofstra Athletics