The Joe Mihalich Era got off to a disappointing start for the Hofstra Men’s Basketball team (0-1) as they fell to visiting Monmouth (1-0) 88-84.
Hofstra led 45-36 at the half and had a 13-point lead early in the second half but watched it slowly slip away.
“We didn’t deserve to win the way we played,” Mihalich admitted after the game. “We know this, we can’t afford to give up 88 points to anybody and win a basketball game.”
In the first half, Hofstra’s outside shooting game worked well and that gave the Pride the early lead. Chris Jenkins (Hillside, NJ) led the way with 14 first half points including an impressive 4-of-6 from three-point range.
Monmouth was able to penetrate on the Hofstra defense in the first half, but couldn’t make their shots inside the paint. The Pride shot 48.6 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes while holding Monmouth to 36.1 percent.
In the second half, the Pride’s outside shooting cooled off and Monmouth slowly but surely cut down the Hofstra lead.
“When it was time to make a defensive stop and time to pull in a rebound, we didn’t do it,” Mihalich said. “To their credit, they did, so shame on us for letting it happen. I thought it [the key] was defensive rebounding.”
Hofstra’s second half performance was further hampered when two key players, Dion Nesmith (Union, NJ) and Zeke Upshaw (Chicago, IL) came down with leg cramps.
“It was definitely exciting, so exciting that I came up with cramps at the end of the game.” Nesmith responded when asked about his Hofstra debut. “I was definitely heartbroken that we lost the game, a game we were in control of for awhile. That was definitely disappointing.”
Hofstra led 62-51 with 10:21 left in the second half after senior Stephen Nwaukoni (Queens, NY) made a free throw to complete a three-point play.
Then, Monmouth went on a 13-1 run over the next 2:57 to take a one-point lead, their first since early in the game.
The visitors went ahead for good with 3:04 to go on a layup by Justin Robinson.
Deon Jones (Wilmington, Del.) paced Monmouth’s attack with 22 points and nine rebounds while Josh James (White Plains, NY) scored 19 points.
Zeke Upshaw led the Pride with 22 points followed by Jenkins with 17. Moussa Kone (Bronx, NY) had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Hofstra while Nwaukoni led all players with 13 rebounds in the game.
A boisterous crowd of 2,063 was on hand to encourage the Pride in their season opener and coach Mihalich was impressed with the atmosphere inside Mack Sports Complex.
“It just made losing sting even more when the students came out the way they came out. We appreciate them coming out here. We really do play for them, the students, our alums and season ticket holders.”
The Pride returns to action on Sunday when they host Farleigh Dickinson University at 4:00 PM.
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