A third straight regular-season crown is still a long shot, but the Hofstra men’s basketball team has spent the last three weeks re-establishing itself as one of the favorites to (hopefully) cut down the nets in Harrisonburg in the CAA Tournament (hopefully) scheduled for three weeks from now.
The Pride won five of six games in between I’ll Be Quirkys to improve to 8-4 in the CAA, good for third place behind Northeastern and James Madison, the latter of whom it is scheduled to play this weekend. Here’s a look back at the last three weeks (three seems to be the magic number here) and a hopeful look ahead to what may be on the horizon.
BACK ON TRACK
Hofstra bounced back from its one loss in the last three weeks and salvaged a split of a series with Drexel on Sunday, when Isaac Kante (16 points, 16 rebounds) had another double-double in a 79-74 win. The Pride led by 16 midway through the second half before the Dragons went on a 19-8 run, but Caleb Burgess hit a pair of big jumpers in the final minute to fend off the comeback. Tareq Coburn (17 points), Kvonn Cramer (15 points), Burgess (11 points) and Vukasin Masic (10 points) also got into double digits on an afternoon in which leading scorer Jalen Ray scored five points as he played through a stomach bug.
SIX TIMES THE DOUBLE-DOUBLE FUN
Isaac Kante recorded his sixth double-double of the season Sunday, the second-most in the CAA this season behind Delaware’s Dylan Painter (seven) and two shy of Kante’s total from last season, when he had the most double-doubles by a Hofstra player since Rokas Gustys recorded 14 during the 2017-18 season.
FIVES WITH TEN
Hofstra put five players in double figures Sunday for the second time in three games and the fourth time this season. The Pride had at least five players score in double figures five times last season.
BURGESS A BUDDING STAR
Sophomore Caleb Burgess finished with 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds Sunday. It was the third time this season he’s had at least 10 points, five assists and five rebounds, putting him halfway towards the number of 10/5/5 games produced last season by the player he replaced, the graduated Desure Buie.
THE FRESHMAN 65
A quartet of freshman — redshirt Kvonn Cramer and true freshmen Vukasin Masic, David Green and Zion Bethea — combined to play 65 minutes Sunday, the most minutes in a game by Hofstra freshmen since Nov. 11, 2012, when freshmen played 97 minutes for the Pride in an 83-54 loss to Purdue.
Jalen Ray was held to five points Sunday but still continued climbing Hofstra’s all-time scoring list as he moved past Carlos Rivera into 22nd place with 1,229 points. Ray is 12 points away from moving past Roberto Gittens and is 58 points away from surpassing Mike Tilley and moving into the top 20.
20.) Mike Tilley 1,286
21.) Roberto Gittens 1,240
22.) JALEN RAY 1,229
23.) Carlos Rivera 1,225
24t.) Demetrius Dudley 1,220
24t.) John Mills 1,220
26t.) Juan’ya Green 1,186
26t.) Brian Bernardi 1,186
28.) Rokas Gustys 1,184
29.) Ted Jackson 1,159
30.) Nathaniel Lester 1,139
RAY’S BIG DAY NOT ENOUGH
Jalen Ray tied a single-game school record by hitting eight 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 30 points last Saturday, but the Pride’s comeback from a 17-point deficit fell just short in a 73-71 loss to Drexel. Isaac Kante had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Pride, which closed within one point three times but could not get over the hump before Ray missed a running layup just before the buzzer.
Ray’s eight 3-pointers tied the mark set by Brian Bernardi, who hit eight 3-pointers in a 96-85 win over Canisius on Nov. 13, 2015. Four Hofstra players hit seven 3-pointers in between the big games by Bernardi and Ray.
THE 30-POINT CLUB
With his 30-point effort Saturday, Jalen Ray became the seventh player to score 30 points in a game since Joe Mihalich became Hofstra’s head coach prior to the 2013-14 season. Justin Wright-Foreman scored at least 30 points 23 times while Zeke Upshaw did it three times, Ameen Tanksley and Desure Buie did it twice apiece and Juan’ya Green and Eli Pemberton each had one 30-point game. Hofstra had just seven players score at least 30 points in a game from 2001-02, the Pride’s first year in the CAA, through 2012-13.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Hofstra, which has a winning streak of at least four games in each of the last seven seasons. That’s tied for the longest active streak in the CAA with Northeastern, though William & Mary has produced at least one winning streak of at least four games in each of the last six seasons and won two straight games prior to its coronavirus pause.
A SEAHAWKS SWEEP
Hofstra extended its winning streak to five games by hitting the road and sweeping UNC Wilmington Jan. 30-31. Isaac Kante’s 21 points led five players in double figures in an 89-83 win on Jan. 31 while Omar Silverio, who missed the previous nine games with an injury, came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points in an 82-73 win on Jan. 30. The Pride completed the sweep despite the absence of Tareq Coburn, who missed both games with an injury.
SIGHS OF RELIEF AFTER THE SWEEP
The second win over UNC Wilmington was a roller coaster experience for Hofstra, which led by 17 points and trailed by a point before heading into halftime with an eight-point lead. The Pride trailed twice in the second half, both times by a point before closing out the win. It was the biggest squandered lead in an eventual victory for Hofstra since a 73-70 win over Marshall on Nov. 24, 2006, in which the Pride led by 18 and later fell behind by five.
TAMING THE TIGERS
The sweep of UNC Wilmington made it two sweeps in as many weekends for Hofstra, which beat visiting Towson 71-58 on Jan. 23 and 74-69 on Jan. 24. Jalen Ray and Kvonn Cramer had 16 points apiece while Isaac Kante (12 points, 12 rebounds) had a double-double in the opener. Tareq Coburn rode a scorching start to a game-high 26 points in the finale.
COBURN BABY BURN
How scorching a start did Tareq Coburn enjoy Jan. 24? He scored Hofstra’s first 10 points and collected 16 points in just 6:41 before finishing the half with 21 points. Remarkably, it wasn’t the fastest Coburn has gotten to 10 points. He had 10 points in 2:33 on Jan. 18, 2020, when the Pride fell to Charleston, 69-67.
FOUR IN A ROW UNDER 46
Hofstra won its first four games following the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Immediate success under a new President is nothing, well, new for the Pride/Flying Dutchmen, which has won at least four straight games following the inauguration of five presidents. Prior to Biden, Hofstra went 4-0 under then-new presidents Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, Richard Nixon in 1969 and Jimmy Carter in 1977 as well as a whopping 13-0 in 2001 under George W. Bush, who didn’t preside over a Flying Dutchmen loss until a 61-48 loss to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Tareq Coburn earned his first career CAA Player of the Week award for the week ending Jan. 25 following his big series against Towson. Coburn is the third Hofstra player to win the award this year, following in the footsteps of Jalen Ray (weeks ending Dec. 20-27) and Isaac Kante (week ending Jan. 3). It’s the first time Hofstra’s had at least three players win a league’s Player of the Week award in the same season since four players took home the honors in the then-Flying Dutchmen’s final season in the America East in 2000-01.
Kvonn Cramer added to his CAA Rookie of the Week collection for the week ending Jan. 31, when he won the honors for the third time. Cramer is the first Hofstra player to win three Rookie of the Week awards since 2016-17, when Eli Pemberton took it home three times.
HOFSTRA THROUGH NINETEEN GAMES
The Pride is 12-7, which is tied for the 27th-best 19-game start in program history. Hofstra last opened 12-7 in 2017-18.
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 12 wins this season have been unicorn scores. The Pride’s previous 79-74 win prior to Sunday was over Towson on Jan. 18, 2007.
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?
Isaac Kante scored in double digits for the sixth straight game Sunday and is the only Hofstra player with consecutive double-digit efforts. Jalen Ray had a 10-game streak snapped when he scored five points Sunday. It was the longest streak by a Pride player since Eli Pemberton ended his career by scoring at least 10 points in each of his final 14 games last season.
Hofstra has begun inching back up the KenPom.com rankings during its recent surge. The Pride enters today ranked no. 164, up 10 spots from three weeks ago and third amongst a quartet of tightly packed CAA teams behind Northeastern (no. 150) and Drexel (no. 154) and ahead of James Madison (no. 176).
Coronavirus-permitting, the Pride is scheduled to embark upon a key road trip this weekend with a series at James Madison, which was picked ninth in the preseason poll but is in second place in the CAA at 6-1. Due to coronavirus shutdowns for their scheduled opponents, the Dukes have played just one weekend series this season — they split with Northeastern Jan. 23-24 — but have won four straight one-off midweek games, including a 70-61 victory over Elon on Tuesday.
Hofstra is 22-13 all-time against James Madison. The Pride has swept the regular-season series twice in the last three seasons, including last year, when it earned an 82-76 win in Harrisonburg on Dec. 28 before clinching the regular-season crown with a 97-81 victory on Feb. 29.
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.