I'll Be Quirky: First Place Hofstra Is On A Roll

It’s been a pretty good fortnight in between I’ll Be Quirky check-ins for the Hofstra men’s basketball team, which has surged into first place and taken control of the race for the regular season CAA title by winning its last three games. 

After taking over the top spot with a rollocking 75-71 comeback win over Northeastern on Feb. 8, the Pride knocked off Charleston in a first-place battle last Thursday with a wire-to-wire 76-63 victory before closing out the perfect homestand with a 78-64 win over UNC Wilmington on Saturday afternoon.

The Pride can further cement itself as the favorite to earn the no. 1 seed — or even clinch the top spot outright — this week, when it visits longtime rivals Drexel and Delaware. Here is a look back at some of the facts and figures from the big wins over the Huskies, Cougars and Seahawks and a look ahead to the Dragons and Blue Hens.

Roaring Back Against The Huskies

Hofstra pulled off its biggest comeback in almost four years against Northeastern, which led 20-4 before the second media timeout in the first half and led by 14 with 16:46 to go before the Pride mounted the furious rally. Desure Buie and Jalen Ray combined for 36 of Hofstra’s 45 points, including 26 of the last 29. Buie’s 3-pointer with 8:18 left put Hofstra ahead for good. The Pride led by eight with 1:09 left and staved off a charge by Northeastern, which closed within one point twice. Buie and Ray both finished with 22 points overall. The win, coupled with Charleston’s loss to Elon, vaulted the Pride into first place, a half-game ahead of the Cougars. 

Chewing Up Charleston

With first place on the line, the Pride scored the first seven points on Thursday night and never trailed against Charleston. Hofstra opened its first 10-point lead 10:30 into the first, led 41-30 at the half, never led by fewer than six points in the second half and led by at least 10 points for the last 13:29. Eli Pemberton tied a career-high with 28 points while Isaac Kante (11 points, 11 rebounds) recorded a double-double.

A Dub Over The Dub

Kante and Pemberton had 23 points apiece as they led the way again Saturday, when the Pride almost pulled off another wire-to-wire win by cruising past UNC Wilmington. Tareq Coburn and Desure Buie had five points apiece during a 14-0 run in which Hofstra held the Seahawks scoreless for almost six minutes and opened up a 31-14 lead. The Pride led in double digits the rest of the way and expanded the lead to as many as 28 points near the midway point of the the second half. The 23 points were a career-high for Kante, as were his 14 rebounds. Coburn finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

First Place

The Pride, winners of six straight, enter this week 11-3 and in first place in the CAA, 1 1/2 games ahead of William & Mary and two games ahead of third-place Delaware and Towson. Hofstra will be assured of the CAA regular season championship and the no. 1 seed in the conference tournament if it goes 3-1 the rest of the way. The Pride could clinch the regular season crown this week with a sweep of Drexel and Delaware coupled with one loss apiece by William & Mary and Towson, who oppose each other Thursday night. 

The Pride never led the CAA through 14 games in its first 17 seasons in the league but has been atop the league after 14 games each of the last two years. Its 11-3 start marks the fourth time Hofstra has won at least 11 of its first 14 CAA games. The Pride was 12-2 last year and 11-3 in both 2006 and 2007.

The Pride Through 27 Games

Hofstra’s 20-7 record is tied for the ninth-best record in program history through 27 games. Fifty-two Hofstra teams have played at least 27 games. The Pride was most recently 20-7 in 2004-05.

So How Good A Weekend Was That?

After leading Charleston from start to finish Thursday, the Pride fell behind 2-0 o a layup by Marten Linssen 19 seconds into Saturday’s game. But Hofstra trailed for just 30 seconds before taking the lead for good on Tareq Coburn’s 3-pointer. Two weeks ago, the Pride trailed for a combined 27 seconds during a 2-0 road trip to Elon and William & Mary.

Mihalich's Milestone

Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich earned the 400th win of his head coaching career with Saturday’s victory over UNC Wilmington. He is the 51st active Division I coach to reach the 400-win mark and the 140th Division I coach overall to reach the milestone. Mihalich recorded 265 wins at Niagara in 15 seasons before taking over at Hofstra prior to the 2013-14 season. His 135 wins with the Pride rank fifth in school history.

Adding To The 20-Win Club

With the win Saturday, the Pride reached 20 wins for the 23rd time in school history, the 14th time since moving to Division I prior to the 1966-67 season and the fourth time in seven years under Joe Mihalich. Only Tom Pecora (four 20-win seasons) and Butch van Breda Kolff (six 20-win seasons over two stints) have directed the Pride/Flying Dutchmen to as many 20-win seasons or more than Mihalich.

Elite Weekend For Pemberton

Eli Pemberton might have had the best back-to-back stretch of his career against Charleston and UNC Wilmington. The 51 points by Pemberton were the most he’s scored in a two-game stretch while his 17-of-28 performance from the field (60.7 percent) was his most efficient since he opened last season by going 14-of-21 (67 percent) from the field against Mount St. Mary’s and Marshall. Pemberton also hit all 14 of his free throws, his longest stretch of perfection from the line over a two-game stretch.

Elite Company For Pemberton

Joe Mihalich wasn’t the only one to hit a milestone Saturday. With his 23 points, Eli Pemberton (1,823 career points) jumped over David Taylor (1,818 points) into ninth place on the all-time Hofstra scoring list. Gaining another spot would likely require a deep postseason run for the Pride and Pemberton, who is 193 points away from surpassing assistant coach Craig “Speedy” Claxton for eighth place.

Kan Do

Isaac Kante continued to surge Saturday, when he set career highs with 23 points and 14 rebounds. The double-double was his eighth of the season, the most by a Hofstra player since Rokas Gustys had 14 in 2017-18, as well as the most points and rebounds in a double-double since Gustys had 25 points and 15 rebounds against William & Mary on Feb. 11, 2016. Kante is also the first center to at least hold a share of the team lead in scoring since Gustys and Justin Wright-Foreman each scored 20 points in a 91-86 win over Drexel on Jan. 13, 2018.

Buie's Streak Ends

Desure Buie’s run of double-digit scoring efforts ended at 22 games Saturday, when he scored nine points against UNC Wilmington. (He had seven assists, so it was still a pretty good afternoon) It also marked the first time since Buie joined the 1,000-point club on Jan. 4 that he didn’t gain at least one spot on the all-time Hofstra scoring list. Buie (1,181 points) remained in 27th place, within striking distance of a trio of ex-teammates in Rokas Gustys (1,184 points) and Juan’ya Green and Brian Bernardi (1,186 points apiece).

Wire-To-Wire Win

The Pride’s win over Charleston marked the first time this season Hofstra has led wire-to-wire in a conference game and the fourth time overall. The Pride also never trailed in wins over Cal State Fullerton (79-57 on Feb. 24), New York Tech (111-69 on Nov. 15) and Holy Cross (91-69 on Dec. 1). The wire-to-wire win over Charleston was Hofstra’s first in a CAA game since a 76-67 win over James Madison in the CAA quarterfinals last Mar. 10. 

A Six-Point Sweep

The win over Northeastern on Feb. 8 gave the Pride a narrow regular season sweep of the Huskies, whom Hofstra outscored by six points in the two wins. The sweep is the tightest for the Pride since the 2009-10 season, when Hofstra outscored James Madison by four points in two wins — a 69-68 victory in Virginia and a 99-96, two-overtime win on Long Island.

The Defense Is Not Resting

The Pride has allowed 75 points or fewer in 11 straight games — the longest streak since Mihalich arrived in 2013-14 and the longest since a 15-game stretch from Jan. 1-Feb. 18, 2013 in which the Pride, depleted by injuries and suspensions, went 3-12.

KenPom Ponderings

The Pride’s surge has kept it the CAA’s top-ranked team at KenPom.com. Hofstra which climbed to the top of the CAA's KenPom.com rankings for the fourth time this season following an 83-60 win over William & Mary on Feb. 1, began the week at a season-high no. 121. Northeastern (137) is second, followed by Charleston (147), Towson (161) and Delaware (184). 

So Who Has A Double-Digit Scoring Streak Now?

Justin Wright-Foreman, as you may or may not recall, ended his Hofstra career by scoring in double figures in each of his last 88 games. And with Desure Buie’s streak ending Saturday at 22 straight double-digit efforts, the longest such streak now belongs to Eli Pemberton, who has scored in double digits in seven consecutive games. 

What's A Unicorn Score And How Many Do The Pride Have Now? 

A unicorn score is a score by which the Pride have never won before. Hofstra earned another unicorn score victory Saturday — its 10th of the season, matching last season's total. The term unicorn score was coined by New York Mets superfan, historian and blogger Greg Prince to describe a score by which the Mets had never previously won. 

11/9/19: 94-74 over Monmouth

11/15/19: 111-69 over New York Tech

11/21/19: 88-78 over UCLA

12/1/19: 91-69 over Holy Cross

12/2/19: 64-57 over Canisius

12/10/19: 71-63 over Stony Brook

1/4/20: 102-75 over Elon

1/30/20: 86-63 over Elon

2/1/20: 83-60 over William & Mary

2/15/20: 78-64 over UNC Wilmington

What's Next

The Pride hits the road for the final time in the regular season by visiting longtime multi-conference rivals Drexel on Thursday and Delaware on Saturday. Delaware handed Hofstra its most recent loss Jan. 23, when Kevin Anderson drove coast-to-coast and hit a layup with less than a second left to lift the Blue Hens to a 73-71 win. The Pride began its winning streak two afternoons later, when it overcame an eight-point second half deficit to beat Drexel, 72-59. Hofstra has won six straight games against Drexel and will be looking to avoid being swept by Delaware for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

Hofstra is 44-46 all-time against Drexel and 59-33 against Delaware. The Dragons and Blue Hens are the Pride’s most common opponents and were conference foes in the East Coast Conference and North Atlantic Conference/America East prior to the three schools joining the CAA, along with Towson, prior to the 2001-02 season.

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