Juan'ya Green's 24 rebounds and 11 assists were key for Hofstra in 93-71 thrashing of Wagner. (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)
BY JOE PANTORNO
Anyone who has watched a Joe Mihalich coached team knows that he likes his sides to run and to run fast. Hofstra was able to do just that as a pesky defense created 17 Wagner turnovers, allowing Juan’ya Green and company to run the floor at will in a 93-71 victory over Wagner on Sunday night.
The win is Hofstra’s second in three nights after a last-second victory over Long Island rival Stony Brook on Friday night.
“We did what we had to do,” Mihalich said. “You worry a little bit about the quick turnaround, we only had one day to prepare for these guys and a little bit of a hangover, because we had such a great, exciting win…our guys really answered the bell.”
Green led the way with a double-double of 24 points on nine shots and 11 assists, providing the quintessential display of a ‘run and gun’ mentality. The junior guard had a hand in over half of his team’s points.
“I’m just trying to be consistent and efficient,” Green said. “Just making sure I take the right shots while making plays for my teammates.”
Starting his second season at Hofstra (3-1), Mihalich revels in the presence of Green, who transferred over from Niagara with the Pride’s coach, to help institute his system.
“You sleep a lot better at night with someone like Juan’ya on your team,” Mihalich said. “He’s efficient. I mean, look at the stats, he took just nine shots…I’m a lucky guy to be his coach and I think his teammates love playing with him.”
Mihalich’s other Niagara transfer, junior guard Ameen Tanksley kept up just nicely with Green and showing off his skill from three-point range, recording 17 points with all five of his field goals coming from beyond the arc.
Wagner (1-3) has now lost three of its first four games this season as they have yet to beat a Division I opponent. Aaren Edmead led the way for the Seahawks with 15 points for a side that just could not break down Hofstra’s defensive strategy.
“We just have young guys and we want to play fast,” Wagner head coach Bashir Mason said. “These guys get caught up in playing fast versus playing smart.”
While Wagner tried to play a physical brand to compliment the speed to try and slow Hofstra down a bit, the Pride’s pace was too much.
“Yeah [we like to get out and run],” Green said. “But I also try to calm my teammates down when we make a lot of mistakes.”
Freshman forward Rokas Gustys paced Hofstra at the start with all six of his points in the game’s first four minutes as he was finding success down low with relative ease. He saw a lot of the bench after his hot start established a comfortable lead.
“One of the best things about tonight was that we were able to rest Rokas tonight,” Mihalich said. “He has a bit of a sore leg so we were able to give him very few minutes.”
Good looks were plentiful as Hofstra was taking advantage of quick ball movement, hitting six of their first nine shots. While the three-pointer was not quite right on Friday against Stony Brook, two straight from Nesmith and Tanksley sparked a Hofstra 13-2 run, capped off by a three-point (lay-up and one) play on the fast break by Green.
Green put on a show in the first half with 14 first quarter points hitting all five shots from the field.
The play quickly shifted from down low to outside as the three-pointer was continuing to work for Hofstra, shooting 5-7 in the first half from deep, they shot 72.7 percent (16-22) from the field to overshadow a 50 percent effort from Wagner.
Hofstra really put the pedal to the medal in the last four minutes of the half, causing four consecutive Wagner turnovers when they shifted to a full court press, opening up a 47-30 lead at halftime.
“We were really aggressive defensively,” Mihalich said. “We had a couple lulls in the second half, they were in that frantic mode…we could have handled it a little better, but we’re moving on.”
Wagner answered a second half start in which it shot 2-12 by hitting 5-7 to make sure their deficit did not worsen, but Hofstra remained aggressive, maintaining its pace despite a spell of sloppy play.
“To be honest, the guys who made [shots] weren’t making them in other games,” Mason said. “We wanted to limit their penetrations and make them beat us with jump shots…they [Hofstra] were just on fire.”
Sophomore forward Jamall Robinson added 13 points in the win while freshman forward Andre Walker led all players with 10 rebounds.