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There was no shortage of drama for Hofstra as the Pride concluded its non-conference schedule by winning two of three road games over the previous 13 days.
After trading 3-pointers with Monmouth in a 96-88 win on Dec. 15, Hofstra made up a 23-point deficit and led with five minutes left against St. Bonaventure before running out of steam in a 77-69 loss on Dec. 19. The Pride saved its best and most exciting game for last Tuesday, when it beat a ranked opponent for just the third time in program history by upsetting no. 23 Richmond 76-71.
Producing the CAA’s signature non-conference viµctory gives Hofstra a winning record heading into league play and solidifies its KenPom.com standing as the favorite to repeat as the CAA champion. After an extended Christmas break, the Pride is scheduled, pandemic-permitting, to open conference action with a back-to-back set of home games against William & Mary on Saturday and Sunday. Here’s a look back at the eventful road trip and a hopeful look ahead to the games against the Tribe.
SQUISH THE SPIDERS
We usually go in chronological order here, but that win over Richmond was pretty big so let’s start there! Jalen Ray joined the 1,000-point club in the first half before scoring 16 of his game-high 23 points after intermission as the Pride pulled away from the Spiders. Hofstra held a trio of 10-point leads before an eventful second half in which Richmond led by as many as nine points and the teams traded the lead eight times, including five times in a span of as many baskets over a stretch of 2:33. Isaac Kante’s layup with 5:30 left ended that stretch, gave the Pride the lead for good and began a game-ending 16-10 run. Hofstra shot 60.4 percent from the field (29-of-48), including a blistering 70 percent both overall (14-20) and from 3-point land (7-for-10) in the second half. Kante had another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Tareq Coburn added 15 points and KVonn Cramer scored 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting.
RARE RANKED WIN
The win over Richmond, which was ranked no. 23 in last week’s coaches poll, marked the first for Hofstra over a ranked opponent since Feb, 23, 2006, when the Pride beat George Mason, which was ranked no. 25 in the coaches’ poll, 77-66. Hofstra’s only other win over a ranked opponent happened Dec. 11, 1976, when the then-Flying Dutchmen beat no. 18 Southern Illinois, 67-66, in the Pittsburgh Classic.
RAY’S MILESTONE DAY
Jalen Ray became the 39th player in program history to reach 1,000 points when he sank his first basket of the game with 8:45 left in the first half. Ray’s 23 points gave him 1,022 points for his career, tying him with James Shaffer (1991-95) for 37th on the all-time list.
33.) Ameen Tanksley 1,090
34.) Derrick Flowers 1,069
35.) Darius Burton 1,060
36.) Percy Johnson 1,045
37t.) James Shaffer, 1,022
37t.) JALEN RAY, 1,022
39.) John Irving 1,018
Ray is the eighth player to reach 1,000 points in the Joe Mihalich era, which began in 2013. At least one Hofstra player has reached 1,000 career points in each of the last six seasons.
999 POINTS ON THE WALL, 999 POINTS ON THE WALL…
Ray had 999 points entering the Richmond game, which got me wondering: How many players over the last 27 years (since I got to campus) have entered their milestone game with 999 points? The answer: Three. And how cool is this? The first two were Shaffer, whom Ray tied Tuesday, and current assistant coach Craig “Speedy” Claxton, who had 999 points entering the game in which he got to 1,000 points…on Dec. 22, 1998. Twenty-two years to the day! Math is fun.
Isaac Kante had a second straight double-double Tuesday, three days after he scored 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds against St. Bonaventure. It’s the second time Kante has put together back-to-back double-doubles. He also did so against Charleston and UNC Wilmington on Feb. 13-15.
CRAMER GOES GIDDY UP
KVonn Cramer drained all six of his field goal attempts, the first time a Hofstra player has been perfect from the field while taking at least five shots since Isaac Kante was 6-of-6 against William & Mary on Feb. 1. Cramer is the first player to go 5-of-5 or better off the bench since Stephen Nwaukoni was 5-of-5 against Belmont on Nov. 24, 2013.
AN AWARD-WINNING WEEK
For their efforts against Richmond, Jalen Ray and KVonn Cramer were named the CAA’s Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively, by the league office this morning. It is the second straight Player of the Week honor for Ray, who scored 57 points in the two games for the week ending Dec. 20 (we’ll get to more on that shortly). It is also Cramer’s second Rookie of the Week award. He earned the honor for the week ending Dec. 6.
COMEBACK FALLS SHORT
Hofstra spotted St. Bonaventure a 30-7 lead on Dec. 19 but took a 66-62 lead with 5:22 to go before going cold the rest of the way. Jalen Ray scored all of his game-high 28 points during a span of 24:01 in which the Pride outscored the Bonnies 59-32. But Hofstra was just 1-of-7 from the field as St. Bonaventure ended the game on a 15-3 run. Issac Kante had his first double-double of the year (15 points, 13 rebounds).
ALL THE WAY BACK (sort of)
By at least one measure, Hofstra authored its biggest comeback of at least the Joe Mihalich era against St. Bonaventure. The Pride had never overcome a deficit of more than 17 points to take a lead under Mihalich. Hofstra trailed by 17 points but came back to lead in eventual losses to James Madison on Feb. 10, 2014 and Indiana State on Nov. 23, 2015. The biggest comeback victory for the Pride in the Mihalich era took place on Feb. 25, 2016, when Hofstra trailed by 18 points before beating UNC Wilmington, 70-69.
HOT AGAINST THE HAWKS
Jalen Ray scored a career-high 29 points and Tareq Coburn matched his personal best with 28 points as Hofstra outlasted Monmouth. The teams swapped the lead seven times over the first 16-plus minutes of the first half and Hofstra didn’t lead by more than six points in the first 14 minutes of the second half. But Ray broke both second-half ties, first with a 3-pointer and then with a pair of free throws, and the Pride took control with an 8-0 run in which all the points were scored by Isaac Kante, Vukasin Music and KVonn Cramer. The Pride shot a scorching 29-of-32 (90.6 percent) from the line while combining with Monmouth to go 26-of-54 from 3-point land.
TAKE THE FREEBIES
With the nearly perfect effort from the line against Monmouth, the Pride became the first Division I team this season to take at least 30 free throws and shoot at least 90 percent. In the type of coincidence we really like here at I’ll Be Quirky, it took just three days for another team to match Hofstra’s feat…and it was CAA rival UNC Wilmington, which was 28-of-31 (90.3 percent) from the line in an 80-72 win over Norfolk State on Dec. 18. Hofstra was the first team to shoot at least 90 percent from the line while taking at least 30 attempts in a non-overtime game since Georgia State hit 31-of-34 free throws in a 92-80 victory over Coastal Carolina on Feb. 15.
DOUBLE THE FUN
Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn became the first pair of Hofstra players to either match or exceed career-high scoring efforts in the same game since Jan. 4, when Desure Buie broke his career-high with 44 points and Isaac Kante matched his with 19 points in a 102-75 victory over Elon.
IMPERFECT BUT IT COUNTS
The Pride beat Monmouth despite committing 23 turnovers and giving up 15 3-pointers. The turnovers were the most for Hofstra in a win since it committed 22 turnovers in an 88-82 victory over Rider on Dec 9, 2017 and the 3-pointers were the most surrendered in a victory since Jan. 21, 2016, when the Pride gave up 17 3-pointers by Northeastern in a 96-92 triple-overtime win.
HOFSTRA THROUGH SEVEN GAMES
The Pride is 4-3, which is tied for the 28th-best seven-game start in program history. This marks the fifth straight season in which Hofstra has opened 4-3.
OVER .500 AGAIN IN NON-LEAGUE PLAY
The upset of Richmond gave Hofstra a *double checks to be safe* 4-3 record in this truncated non-conference season and ensured the Pride would enter CAA play with a winning record for the seventh straight season. Hofstra last entered CAA play with a sub-500 record in 2013-14, when Joe Mihalich’s first team was 4-10.
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. None of Hofstra’s four wins this season have been unicorn scores. The Pride recorded 13 unicorn wins last season, two more than in 2018-19. 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.
SO WHO HAS A DOUBLE-DIGIT SCORING STREAK NOW?
Jalen Ray’s big games extended his double-digit scoring streak to a team-high five games. Isaac Kante had his double-digit scoring streak snapped at three games when he scored nine points against Monmouth and Tareq Coburn had his snapped at four games when he scored nine points against St. Bonaventure.
The upset over Richmond vaulted the Pride back to no. 1 among CAA teams in the KenPom.com rankings. Hofstra enters today ranked no. 141, its highest ranking of the season and 11 spots ahead of Drexel. The Pride entered the Richmond game ranked no. 158.
Coronavirus-permitting, the Pride is scheduled to open league play with a weekend doubleheader against William & Mary, which was picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll.
Hofstra is 23-14 all-time against William & Mary following an unusually lopsided split last season, when the Tribe rolled to an 88-61 win on Long Island on Jan. 2 before the Pride returned the favor with an 83-60 victory in Williamsburg on Feb. 1. Entering last year, 10 of the previous 15 games between Hofstra and William & Mary were decided by six points or fewer or in overtime, including back-to-back classics in the CAA semifinals in 2015 and 2016.
Jerry Beach has covered Hofstra sports since arriving on campus in the fall of 1993, when Wayne Chrebet was a junior wide receiver wearing No. 3, Butch van Breda Kolff was the men’s basketball coach for the East Coast Conference champions and Jay Wright was a little-known yet surely well-dressed UNLV assistant coach. Check out Jerry’s book about the 2000 World Series here and follow him on Twitter at @JerryBeach73.