It’s been an eventful three weeks in between I’ll Be Quirkys for the Hofstra men’s basketball team. The Pride opened CAA play by sweeping William & Mary during the first weekend of 2021 and absorbed back-to-back painful losses to Northeastern in rematches of the 2020 CAA title game before getting routed by Delaware on Friday and salvaging a split of the series by a literal split second on Sunday.
Add it all up and the Pride (7-6 overall and 3-3 in the CAA) is staring at an uphill climb to a third straight regular-season title, though the road would have been a lot longer if halves were 20 minutes and one second long. Here’s a look back at the last three weeks for Hofstra and a hopeful look ahead to what’s on the horizon.
THE CLOSEST OF CLOSE CALLS
A last-second defensive stand helped the Pride end its longest losing streak in three years and avoid what could have been a season-altering defeat Sunday, when Hofstra never trailed in a 68-67 win over Delaware. (You don’t see one-possession wins where the victor never trails every day, but you see it more often than you’d think when Hofstra and Delaware play — more on that shortly.)
The Pride raced out to a 13-0 lead, led by as many as 20 in the first half and 15 with just under eight minutes to go before allowing a 20-6 run. Delaware had a chance to win the game after Isaac Kante missed a jumper with 22 seconds left, but the Blue Hens had no timeouts to set up a final play. Hofstra swarmed the perimeter before Ryan Allen fired the ball across the court to a wide-open Ebby Asamoah. Tareq Coburn closed out and leaped at Asamoah, who had to pause his motion just long enough for the buzzer to sound. His shot was waved off even before it went through the net.
Jalen Ray had 23 points and four steals for Hofstra while Caleb Burgess had another strong game with 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals. KVonn Cramer, a Delaware native, had nine points and eight rebounds.
NEVER TRAILED BUT NEVER EXHALED
As hinted earlier, a one-possession win in which the winning team never trails sounds pretty unusual, but Sunday marked the third time in the last 10 years it’s happened in a Hofstra-Delaware game. The Pride never trailed in a 61-58 win on Feb. 12, 2011, while the Blue Hens led wire-to-wire in a 67-66 win on Jan. 4, 2012. All three games were at Delaware. Maybe it’s something in the water?
Jalen Ray continued climbing Hofstra’s all-time scoring list Sunday when he scored 23 points to move past Richie Swartz into 32nd place with 1,127 points. Ray is just two points away from moving past Mike Moore and six points away from surpassing Wandy Williams and moving into the top 30.
29.) Nathaniel Lester 1,139
30.) Wandy Williams 1,132
31.) Mike Moore 1,128
32.) JALEN RAY 1,127
33.) Richie Swartz 1,107
34.) Ameen Tanksley 1,090
35.) Derrick Flowers 1,069
36.) Darius Burton 1,060
37.) Percy Johnson 1,045
38.) James Shaffer, 1,022
39.) John Irving 1,018
BURGESS BUSTING OUT
Sophomore point guard Caleb Burgess joined some select company Sunday when he became the first Hofstra player with at least 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals since Desure Buie had 27 points, six rebounds, nine assists, and three steals against Delaware on Feb. 22, 2020. Burgess is just the fourth player to post such a line since the start of the 2010-11 season. Buie did it twice while Charles Jenkins and Juan’ya Green did it three times each.
Redshirt senior Stafford Trueheart made his season debut Saturday when he had two rebounds in six minutes. He added four points, three blocks, and two rebounds in 16 important minutes Sunday for the suddenly undermanned Pride, which was again without David Green, Omar Silverio, and Zion Bethea. While Kevin Schutte (nine minutes) returned after missing Friday’s game, Vukasin Masic exited with an apparent lower-body injury after playing just six minutes.
THREES ARE NOT MAGIC
The Pride won Sunday despite going just 3-of-17 from 3-point land. It marked the fourth straight game in which Hofstra made five or fewer 3-pointers, the longest such streak since a four-game stretch from Dec 20, 2017 through Jan. 2, 2018, a span in which the Pride went 1-3. Speaking of that stretch…
THRICE IS NOT AS NICE
The Pride’s losing streak hit three games Friday, when Delaware scored the final 14 points in a 74-56 win. The Blue Hens led for the final 31-plus minutes, during which Hofstra closed within one point five times. Jalen Ray scored 25 points while Isaac Kante had 10 points and eight rebounds. The losing streak was the longest for Hofstra since a three-game losing streak from Dec. 20-30, 2017, a skid snapped with a 71-70 win over Northeastern on Jan. 2, 2018 that was the Pride’s most recent one-point win prior to Sunday. It all ties together!
The span between three-game losing streaks was the longest for Hofstra since the then-Flying Dutchmen went almost five years — 1,816 days, to be exact — between beating Vermont 80-66 to snap a seven-game losing streak on Jan. 2, 1997, and losing to Drexel, 70-58, on Dec. 23, 2001, for the third defeat in what ended up a five-game losing streak.
STUCK IN THE 60S
Hofstra has scored fewer than 70 points in each of its last three games, its longest stretch since it scored 68 points in going 1-2 against Siena, Stony Brook, and Florida Atlantic from Dec. 9-22, 2015.
NO NO NORTHEASTERN
Hofstra’s losing streak began with what-if filled home-and-home losses to Northeastern. The Huskies overcame a 19-point second-half deficit to earn an 81-78 overtime win on Long Island on Jan. 7 before withstanding 19 unanswered points by the Pride spanning the halves in a 67-56 win in Boston two days later. Northeastern is the first team to (likely) sweep Hofstra since Charleston in 2017-18. (We say likely because there is always a chance Hofstra and Northeastern could play again if the schedule has to be shuffled due to coronavirus-related postponements.)
The 19-point lead was the largest squandered by the Pride in a loss since it gave up a 20-point lead in a 70-67 loss to UNC Wilmington on Feb. 4, 2016. And the 19-0 run in a loss marked the second time in less than a year Hofstra has lost despite scoring at least 18 unanswered points. The Pride mounted an 18-0 run before falling to Delaware 73-71 on Jan. 23, 2020.
TWICE IS NOT AS NICE
The loss to Northeastern on Jan. 9 ended another remarkable stretch for Hofstra. Prior to that loss, the Pride was just one of nine teams nationwide to have no more than two losing streaks — none more than two games — since the start of the 2018-19 season.
Hofstra was in pretty good company amongst the other seven schools. Houston’s had no losing streak since the start of 2018-19 while Gonzaga, Kansas, Liberty, and New Mexico State have had one each. Duke, Vermont, and San Diego State joined Hofstra in having just two two-game losing streaks between the start of the 2018-19 season and Jan. 1, 2021. (San Diego State fell off the list when the Aztecs were swept by Utah State on Thursday and Saturday.)
OPENING BY TAMING THE TRIBE
Hofstra opened the CAA schedule Jan. 2-3, when the Pride got off to quick starts before holding off comeback bids by William & Mary in a 61-56 win in the opener and an 82-73 victory in the finale.
The Pride led by 14 in the first half on Jan. 2 before William & Mary got within three points twice in the final 60 seconds. Hofstra opened the finale by scoring the first 10 points before falling behind later in the first half. The Pride never trailed in the second half but led by just one point prior to a game-ending 22-14 run.
TWICE AS NICE
The 2-0 start in CAA play was the third straight for Hofstra, the fifth in the last seven seasons and the program’s eighth since joining the CAA prior to the 2001-02 season.
Isaac Kante earned CAA Player of the Week honors for the week ending Jan. 3 after posting 28 points and 28 rebounds in the sweep of William & Mary. Kante followed in the footsteps of Jalen Ray, who won Player of the Week honors in the final two weeks of December. The back-to-back-to-back Player of the Week wins by Hofstra marked the first time players from one school earned at least a share of POTW honors in three consecutive weeks since Hofstra also did it from Feb. 15-29, 2016, when Rokas Gustys took the award on Feb. 15 before Juan’ya Green shared it with Northeastern’s Quincy Ford on Feb. 22 and was the solo winner on Feb. 29.
HOFSTRA THROUGH 13 GAMES
The Pride is 7-6, which is tied for the 42nd-best 13-game start in program history. Hofstra last opened 7-6 in 2017-18 which was its first 7-6 start since way back in 1991-92. Somewhat related fun fact: The Pride was 6-6 through 12 games for the first time since 1995-96, when they were the Flying Dutchmen and Jay Wright was in his second season at the helm (and I was in my second senior year, but that’s a tale for another time).
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 seven wins this season have been unicorn scores. The Pride’s previous 68-67 win prior to Sunday over Georgia State in the first round of the CAA Tournament on Mar. 5, 2010.
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 scored in double digits for the fifth straight game Sunday. It’s the second five-game streak of double-digit efforts this season for Ray, whose first streak was snapped when he scored seven points against William & Mary on Jan. 2.
The three-game losing streak dented the Pride’s standing in the KenPom.com rankings. Hofstra enters today ranked no. 174, down 34 spots from the morning of the CAA opener Jan. 2. The 18-point loss to Delaware on Friday dropped the Pride 22 spots between games. Hofstra ranks third amongst CAA teams behind Northeastern (no. 149) and Drexel (no. 161).
Coronavirus-permitting, the Pride is scheduled to continue league play with a home series this weekend against Towson, which was picked third in the preseason poll. The Tigers, who have had their season paused twice, didn’t begin CAA play until Saturday, when they fell to James Madison, 81-72.
Hofstra is 44-27 all-time against Towson, which was a league rival in the East Coast Conference and the America East before the schools joined the CAA together prior to the 2001-02 season. The teams split the season series last year, when the Pride won 75-67 in Maryland on Dec 30 before the Tigers returned the favor with a 76-65 victory on Long Island on Feb. 27.
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.