Brian Bernardi's 23 points led Hofstra as Pride knocked off Appalachian State 86-80 in Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden. (Photo courtesy of Newsday)
NEW YORK -- Brian Bernardi's 23 points led four Hofstra players in double figures as the Pride (6-2) overcame Appalachian State's hot start from three-point range and 38 points from guard Frank Eaves, defeating the Mountaineers by the final count of 86-80 in the nightcap of the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.
"I thought we found a way to win," head coach Joe Mihalich remarked as the Pride shot 51 percent (31-for-61) from the field and 59 percent (19-for-32) in the second half to outlast a game Appalachian State team that made them work for baskets throughout the opening stanza. "It wasn't one of our better efforts, particularly defensively, but these two guys (Bernardi and Juan'ya Green, who tallied 17 points, six assists, five rebounds, and four steals) weren't going to let us lose."
Ameen Tanksley contributed 18 points of his own, while Rokas Gustys supplemented the effort from the front line with a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double, picking up the slack on the glass on an afternoon where Hofstra was outrebounded by a 44-31 margin.
Appalachian State led for the majority of the first half, but Hofstra was able to hang close going into the locker room, only trailing the Mountaineers 36-34 at the intermission. In a seesaw game in which neither team led by more than nine points, it was Bernardi; who played arguably his finest all-around game in a Hofstra uniform on this day, that gave the Pride the lead for good on a jumper that broke a 55-all tie with 12:15 remaining. Just over a minute later, the Staten Islander drained an uncontested three-pointer to stretch the cushion to seven points.
The Mountaineers would close within one possession on several occasions, including after a three by Green made it 77-72 in favor of Hofstra with 3:54 to play. Trailing 81-77 with less than a minute to go and needing a stop to keep their hopes alive, Appalachian State did not get it, as Tanksley buried a three to put the Pride back up by seven, essentially sealing the outcome.
"When you have players like that that understand it's time to go, it makes you feel pretty good as a coach," Mihalich said. "We are a confident offensive team. You've got to pick your poison with us. Rokas has improved so much and when you're open, Juan'ya...that pass that Juan'ya threw, we see two or three of those a day. I know the Knicks play here, but I'm not sure if, with all due respect, they've got someone that can pass like he passes."
Hofstra takes on Siena at the Times Union Center in Albany on Wednesday, with a 7 p.m. tipoff.