Freddie Jackson scored 21 points as UNCW avenged home loss to Hofstra with 79-74 road win over Pride in Hempstead. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)
Two weeks removed from an agonizing home loss at the hands of Hofstra, one thing stuck out in the mind of Kevin Keatts: Playing a full game.
His UNCW team did exactly that, closing their second meeting with the Pride on a 16-5 run, overcoming five Hofstra players with double-figure point totals on the way to a 79-74 victory at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead.
"We just wanted to stay the course," said Keatts, the former Rick Pitino assistant now in his first year at the helm of the Seahawks. "We felt like we played a very good game against Hofstra in the beginning of the year. We've had a hard time playing 40 minutes, and I thought we did tonight."
Addison Spruill and Freddie Jackson led the way for UNCW, (9-8, 4-2 CAA) scoring 23 and 21 points, respectively, as the Seahawks dominated Hofstra (13-6, 4-2) to the tune of a 22-point edge in points in the paint, distancing the Pride by a final count of 40-18.
Trailing 38-33 at halftime, UNCW stormed out of the locker room on a 16-7 run to take a 49-45 lead after a Jordan Talley three-pointer with 14:12 remaining in regulation gave the Seahawks a two-possession lead. The advantage would remain at four points for another two minutes, until Hofstra regained it with an 8-2 run to go up 58-56 with 8:59 to play, vaulting ahead on a pair of Moussa Kone free throws. On the ensuing possession, however, Talley drew a foul on Kone; who then slammed the ball away upon the whistle and was assessed a technical foul, to the chagrin of the crowd.
"The technical was bad," Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich admitted, "and Moussa knew that. You can't do that. It was a major turning point of the game."
Talley made three of his four free throws resulting from the double foul call, giving UNCW a 59-58 lead, but Hofstra quickly recovered to go up by six following a Juan'ya Green jumper that made the score 69-63 in favor of the Pride with 5:42 to go. Layups by Spruill and Jackson, the latter of whom made an inspiring return from what looked to be a serious leg injury earlier in the second half, trimmed the Hofstra lead to two before Spruill tipped a Cedrick Williams miss into the net to tie the game at 69.
On the ensuing possession, Green was fouled, but made only one of two free throws. UNCW responded with a Talley three from the left arc before Craig Ponder scooped up a Green miss, feeding it to Jackson, who then dished to Spruill for a layup that gave the Seahawks a 74-70 cushion with 1:02 on the clock.
Hofstra fired back with a Green three from the left baseline in front of the Pride bench, and then forced a five-second violation on the UNCW inbounds. The Pride came up empty on their opportunity, though, as Dion Nesmith missed a potential go-ahead layup that was picked up by Williams.
The Pride had one last chance to remain in the game after two Spruill free throws put UNCW up 77-74 with 28 seconds to go, allowing Hofstra to hold for the last shot to tie the game. It only took three seconds for those plans to go awry, as Green misfired on a three from the top of the key. Spruill went back to the line seconds later, and drained two more shots to provide the final margin of victory.
Ameen Tanksley led the Pride with 19 points in the losing effort, while Green and Kone accounted for 14 apiece in an outing where their coach was realistic in surmising the final result.
"You get what you deserve," an exasperated Mihalich assessed, "and we didn't deserve to win."