Rokas Gustys' 11 points and 16 rebounds allowed Lithuanian freshman to record his first career double-double as Hofstra ended eight-game losing streak to Delaware with 71-58 win. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)
In Hofstra's last game, the Pride's Colonial Athletic Association opener, they were tested for the first time in weeks by a scrappy UNC Wilimington squad, yet came back to win on the road. Monday night, however, provided a return to what has come to be a status quo of sorts.
Riding the momentum from their 68-56 victory Saturday afternoon, Hofstra (11-4, 2-0 CAA) used double-digit point totals from four players, including a double-double from Rokas Gustys, to overcome an early deficit to defeat Delaware (1-12, 0-2) by the final of 71-58 in Hempstead, ending an eight-game losing streak to the reigning CAA champion Blue Hens that lasted nearly four years, reaching as far back as the 2010-11 season, the first for former head coach Mo Cassara at the helm of the Pride.
"It feels good," Gustys said of his 11 points and 16 rebounds, both career highs, the latter establishing a season benchmark for boards by a Hofstra player in a single game. "We won the game, so that's the most important thing."
Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, who have not missed a beat in returning to their pre-Hofstra form while leading the Pride's resurgence, contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively; while Brian Bernardi joined the cause with 13 points in a 5-for-9 shooting display for the home team, who heads to the Carolinas to face College of Charleston and Elon, but not after first winning two deceptively strong league games.
"We're finding ways to win," head coach Joe Mihalich revealed after Hofstra trailed 15-8 midway through the first half before a 17-2 run enabled the Pride to take control going into the locker room against a Delaware team held to 38 percent shooting (22-for-58) from the field, "but we can be better. We did it the other day with some great defense in the second half, and today, I really didn't feel like we played well, but we still won the game."
Leading 27-22 at halftime, Delaware was able to trade baskets with the Pride for the first several minutes after the intermission to remain within single digits before a Green layup with 16:31 remaining put Hofstra ahead 39-28. Their lead would stay in double digits until the final buzzer, thanks in large part to contributions from Green and Tanksley, the latter of whom has built on what he learned from Mihalich in his first two years at Niagara before following the coach to Hempstead and finding another gear offensively to the tune of averaging nearly 19 points per game to lead the Pride.
"He's always been a confident guy," Mihalich said of his junior swingman. "A lot of it speaks to how hard he worked last year. He and Brian, and Juan'ya, you couldn't get them out of the gym. They treated every day like a game day, and they got better."
Kyle Anderson led Delaware with 16 points, which matched Green for the game high. The Blue Hens continue a three-game road trip by facing UNC Wilmington Thursday evening, while Hofstra starts their swing through the southern portion of the league when they face Charleston.
"When you look at the schedule and see four out of five on the road to start," Mihalich advised, "you could do one of two things: You could feel sorry for yourself, or you could like the challenge. We just talked about that, too. We like it, it's great. Let's go."