Isaac Kante scored 20 points, but Hofstra was unable to match Towson’s physicality in loss to Tigers. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Entering Thursday's penultimate regular season contest against Towson, Hofstra — for all it had accomplished in recent seasons, including a pair of regular season Colonial Athletic Association championships that bookended the transcendent career of Justin Wright-Foreman — still had an opportunity to do something that had never been done in the program’s 19-year affiliation as a CAA member.
The Pride, with a victory against the visiting Tigers, would be able to clinch its latest CAA crown on its home floor outright for the first time in school history, the last two coming either on the road or in a share of the championship. As it turned out, the champagne was relegated back to the cooler to be kept on ice for Saturday’s finale.
Despite opening a 12-4 lead three minutes into the contest, Hofstra could not keep up with Towson’s offensive rebounding prowess or second chance opportunities, two advantages the Tigers enjoyed massively en route to a 76-65 victory at the Mack Sports Complex, moving the visitors into sole possession of third place in the CAA standings and delaying a potential coronation for at least another 48 hours.
“We got what we deserved,” a candid Joe Mihalich surmised, pulling no punches as the Pride (22-8, 13-4 CAA) also saw its eight-game win streak halted in the loss. “They were clearly the tougher team, they were the hungrier team, they were the better team, and we’re going to look ourselves in the mirror and decide that if we want to win a championship, we’ve got to learn from tonight.”
Isaac Kante and Tareq Coburn combined for 41 points on 15-of-20 shooting, two ancillary sources of offense that would normally be more than enough to propel Hofstra to victory, but on a night where Desure Buie was held to just six points on 2-of-14 shooting and Eli Pemberton struggled amid a 5-for-17 evening, Towson (18-12, 11-6 CAA) fed off the hard-nosed mentality it dictated to the tune of outrebounding the Pride, 49-26, securing 24 of those caroms on the offensive glass.
“It was their rebounding,” Mihalich reiterated, citing the Tigers’ edge as the impetus behind a 26-10 advantage in second chance points and a 42-20 margin in paint scoring. “We said before the game the best thing they do is miss a shot, so we had to think about giving them one shot. We failed miserably. They got 24 offensive rebounds, we had 26 total. Their points came off second shots.”
Only four players scored for Hofstra, whereas four Towson players amassed 10 or more points, led by Brian Fobbs’ 21.
The Pride still controls its own destiny heading into Saturday’s meeting with James Madison, needing a win to enter the impending CAA tournament in Washington, D.C. as the No. 1 seed. Hofstra can also clinch should second-place William & Mary lose to Elon, but no matter how the last set of chips decides to fall, the takeaway from Thursday is clear.
“We’ve got to learn from this,” an exasperated Mihalich repeated. “This has to be a redo. If we’re going to win a championship, today has to be one of the reasons why. It’s going to be about how we respond to just kind of getting big-brothered out there.”