I'll Be Quirky: Hofstra Locks Up CAA Regular Season Crown

Eli Pemberton, Hofstra

It took one more game than Joe Mihalich & Co. might have preferred, but the Hofstra men’s basketball team locked up its second straight CAA regular season title and accompanying top seed in the conference tournament Saturday with a 97-81 win over James Madison. That came two days after Towson snapped the Pride’s eight-game winning streak and ruined its first chance to lock things up at home by earning a 76-65 victory.

The Pride, like everyone else in the CAA, gets a week off to prepare for the biggest stretch of the season — the conference tournament, which opens Saturday afternoon with outbracket games and continues Sunday, when Hofstra opens the four quarterfinal games by facing the winner of the Drexel-UNC Wilmington game at noon.

Here is a look back at some of the facts and figures from the loss to the Tigers and win over the Dukes as well as a look ahead to the CAA Tournament.

Pounced On By The Tigers

Hofstra led by eight points three minutes into the game, but Towson tied the score about six minutes later and took the lead for good with 4:55 left in the first half of a bruising win. The Tigers took control with a 14-4 run to end the half and never led by fewer than four points in the second half. Towson dominated the boards, out-rebounding Hofstra 49-26 overall and pulling down 24 offensive rebounds, which led to 26 second-chance points. The Tigers also shut down the Pride’s top two scorers in Desure Buie and Eli Pemberton, who were held to a combined 24 points on 7-of-31 shooting. Tareq Coburn (21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, all from 3-point land) and Isaac Kante (20 points on 9-of-10 shooting along with seven rebounds) led the way for the Pride, who had just four players score.

Second Time The Charm

The Pride didn’t let leave anything to chance Saturday afternoon, when it raced out to a 28-point halftime lead and led by as many as 34 in the second half of a rout of James Madison. The win on Senior Day not only locked up the CAA title and a potential automatic bid to the NIT for Hofstra, but also exacted a bit of revenge of James Madison, which ruined the Pride’s Senior Day and momentarily prevented it from clinching the CAA’s top seed with a 104-99 overtime win on Feb. 23, 2019. 

Eli Pemberton saved the best of his Hofstra tenure for his last game at home by scoring a career-high 35 points, including 24 in the fist half. Fellow senior Desure Buie scored 26 points and added nine assists. Buie was 7-of-11 from 3-point land for Hofstra, which shattered the single-game school record with 20 3-pointers — one shy of the league record. Tareq Coburn (14 points) and Jalen Ray (12 points) also scored in double figures for the Pride. Senior Connor Klementowicz, who walked on the first three-and-a-half seasons before earning a scholarship this semester, started for the first time and pulled down a rebound in five minutes.

Regular Season Champs Again

Hofstra joined some select company by clinching a second straight outright regular season title Saturday. The Pride is the sixth CAA program to win back-to-back outright regular season crowns and the first since VCU completed a three-peat in 2009. It is also the second time Hofstra has won back-to-back regular season championships at the Division I level. The then-Flying Dutchmen went 16-2 in both 1999-2000 and 2000-01 in the America East before winning the conference tournament and reaching the NCAA Tournament.

The Pride Through 31 Games

Hofstra’s 23-8 record is tied for the fifth-best record in program history through 31 games. All 19 Hofstra teams that have played at least 31 games have done so since the 1997-98 season. The Pride was most recently 23-8 in 2015-16, when it beat Drexel in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament. Each of the five previous Hofstra teams to be 23-8 or better through 31 games reached either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. 

A Pretty Good Two-Year Stretch

The win over James Madison gave Hofstra 50 wins over the last two seasons. That ties the school record for most victories in a two-year span. The then-Flying Dutchmen went 24-7 in 1999-2000 and 26-5 in 2000-01 while winning the America East and reaching the NCAA Tournament in both seasons.

A Select Club

By beating James Madison, Hofstra ensured it would remain amongst the group of Division I teams with two or fewer losing streaks, and none of them lasting more than two games, over the last two seasons. That club dropped from 15 members to 13 over the weekend, when UNC Greensboro and Buffalo each lost a second straight game for the third time since the start of last season.

Houston (0)
Gonzaga (1)
Kansas (1)
Kentucky (1)
Liberty (1)
Murray State (1)
New Mexico State (1)
Vermont (1)
Cincinnati (2)
Duke (2)
East Tennessee State (2)
Hofstra (2)
San Diego State (2)

No Longer Streaking (Part One)

By scoring 76 points Thursday, Towson ended Hofstra’s 13-game streak of allowing 75 points or fewer. The Pride went 11-2 in the streak, which was the longest streak under Joe Mihalich and the longest by a Hofstra team since a 15-game stretch from Jan. 1-Feb. 18, 2013 in which a team depleted by injuries and suspensions went just 3-12. 

No Longer Streaking (Part Two)

Eli Pemberton’s pursuit of a CAA record ended with 11:39 left in the second half Thursday night, when he missed a free throw for the first time this month. The miss snapped Pemberton’s streak at 38 straight free throws, which was the longest active streak in the CAA and the longest by a Hofstra player under Joe Mihalich. The previous standard was set this season by Desure Buie, who sank 35 straight free throws from Nov. 21 through Dec. 7. Pemberton’s streak is tied for the second-longest in CAA history. David Cohn hit 38 straight free throws for William & Mary during the 2017-18 season. The CAA record for consecutive made free throws is held by VCU’s Willie Taylor, who hit 45 straight freebies during the 2001-02 season.

Tigers Roar On The Boards

Hofstra’s negative-23 difference in total rebounding Thursday was its largest since Towson out-rebounded Hofstra 45-20 on Jan. 27, 2014. The 24 offensive rebounds by Towson also marked just the third time this year a team has notched at least 24 offensive rebounds against a Division I opponent.

Big Night For The Big Guy

Isaac Kante finished 9-of-10 shooting against Towson. It was the best shooting performance by a Hofstra player (minimum 10 attempts) since fellow big man Rokas Gustys went 9-of-10 against James Madison on Jan. 16, 2016.

Taking The Leap

OK, some better things happened to Hofstra on Saturday, let’s get to those, shall we? Hofstra played on Feb. 29 for the first time since 1992, when the then-Flying Dutchmen also locked up a regular season crown — this one in the East Coast Conference — by beating Maryland-Baltimore County, 103-87. Apparently, Hofstra wins a regular season title by recording a 16-point victory on Leap Day every 28 years!

A Pretty Whole Half

The Pride raced out to a 61-33 lead at the half Saturday. The 61 points were the most Hofstra has scored in a half against a Division I opponent under Joe Mihalich and rank behind only the 62-point first half the Pride produced in a 107-54 win over Division III Rosemont on Dec. 22, 2018. The 28-point halftime lead was the fifth-largest for Hofstra since joining the CAA and its largest since heading into the locker room with a 57-22 lead over Elon on Feb. 7, 2019. Furthermore, four players scored in double figures in the first half alone for the Pride — Eli Pemberton (24), Tareq Coburn (14), Jalen Ray (11) and Desure Buie (10).

Elite Senior Day For Pemberton

Eli Pemberton put quite the bow on his home career for Hofstra by getting over the 28-point hump and scoring a career-high 35 points. Pemberton scored 28 points three times previously, including earlier this season against San Diego and Charleston. 

The 35 points by Pemberton are also believed to be the most ever by a Hofstra senior in his home finale, exceeding Justin Wright-Foreman’s 33 points against James Madison on Feb. 23, 2019. Pemberton’s effort marked the 39th time a Hofstra player has scored at least 35 points in a game. 

Buie Goes Out In Style

Fellow senior Desure Buie also had a memorable Senior Day by scoring 26 points and going 7-of-11 from 3-point land. The seven 3-pointers were a career-high for Buie and one shy of the school record set by Brian Bernardi, who was 8-of-11 from beyond the arc against Canisius on Nov. 13, 2015. 

Connor Starts!

The Pride’s third senior, four-year walk-on Connor Klementowicz, received some well-earned playing time Saturday, when he made his first career start and then entered again in the final minutes and dribbled the clock out on the victory. Klementowicz, who had one rebound and was 0-for-1 from the field, joined Tom Marich (1998), Jeff Fox (2001), Ryan Johnson (2008) and Matt Grogan (2013) as multi-year walk-ons who started on their Senior Day. The only multi-year Hofstra seniors to not start on their Senior Day over the last 15 years are Mike Davis-Saab (2009) and Joel Angus III (2018), both of whom were injured.

Lighting It Up From Outside

Hofstra drained a school-record 20 3-pointers, shattering the previous school record of 17 (established most recently against Elon on Feb. 7, 2019). The Pride just missed tying the CAA single-game record of 21 3-pointers, set by Northeastern and UNC Wilmington in games against Delaware during the 2016-17 season. 

No More Bench Blankings

The Pride’s bench drought ended in both the literal and realistic sense Saturday. Tareq Coburn, who came off the bench so Connor Klementowicz could start on his Senior Day, scored 14 points for Hofstra, which hadn’t received a point from a reserve in wins over Drexel and Delaware and the loss to Towson. In the second half Saturday, Caleb Burgess drained a 3-pointer to become the first true Hofstra reserve to score since Stafford Trueheart scored two points against UNC Wilmington on Feb. 15, 2020.

The February Surge

Hofstra continued a trend of performing well in February by going 7-1 in the final month of the regular season. Since becoming a member of the CAA in 2001-02, the Flying Dutchmen/Pride are 95-63 (.601) in regular season games played in February or March. In addition, Joe Mihalich is 119-61 (.661) in regular season games played in February or March.

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. The longest such streak now belongs to Eli Pemberton, who has scored in double digits in 11 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 12th of the season, two more than last season. 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
2/22/20: 78-62 over Delaware
2/29/20: 97-81 over James Madison

What's Next

The Pride will look to end its 19-year NCAA Tournament drought and win the CAA’s automatic bid for the first time ever when it heads to the CAA Tournament this weekend. KenPom.com forecasts a wide-open tournament in which Hofstra, the league’s top-ranked team (120) as of this morning, wins the title 29.6 percent of the time. Some of us might be obsessing over the other 70.4 percent of possibilities. 

Hofstra is 15-18 all-time in the CAA Tournament. The top seed has gone 82-16 in CAA Tournament play, reached the title game 31 times and won it all 20 times. Alas, the two most recent no. 1 seeds to not win the championship are…the Pride and the Pride, who fell in the championship game both last year and in 2016.

The CAA’s top seed is 36-1 all-time in its opening game with 28 straight opening game wins following Hofstra’s 76-67 win over James Madison in the quarterfinals last year. The only top seed to lose in the quarterfinals was James Madison in 1991, when the Dukes lost to Navy, 85-82, in overtime. Some of us might be obsessing over how due the top seed is to lose in the first round.

Hofstra will face the winner of the 8/9 game between Drexel and UNC Wilmington. The Pride swept both teams in regular season action this year, when it earned double-digit victories on Long Island and single-digit wins on the road.

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