The Hofstra Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams both opened their seasons Friday night with dramatic wins at the Mack Sports Complex. The women scored a hard-fought 65-63 victory over Navy in the opener, while the men overcame an 18-point first-half deficit to defeat Canisius 96-85.
The women’s team was led by Ashunae Durant who scored 17 points and added 13 rebounds including 10 on the offensive boards. Jakelle King-Gilchrist totaled 15 points and shot 3-of-4 from behind the three-point arc, while Anjie White added 13 rebounds with eight of those coming on offensive glass.
Overall, Hofstra outrebounded Navy 52-32 which was a key to their victory.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Hofstra Coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said after the game. “That fight, that resilience, that maturity that you saw and against a good team…This was a total team effort as you can see.”
The Pride trailed by as many as eight points in the first quarter as Navy dominated the paint early, scoring 14 of their 21 first-quarter points from in close. But Kilbrun-Steveskey changed up the defense and the Pride was able to slow down the inside shooting of Navy who managed only 14 more points in the paint over the last three quarters.
“They’re a smart team, they’re trained very well,” Kilburn-Steveskey explained. “So we were improvising [on defense] and I’m so proud of them because it almost felt like we couldn’t do the same defense twice. We kept switching it back and forth and showing them different lineups.”
Hofstra led by five at the half and grabbed a nine-point advantage early in the third quarter, but Navy remained disciplined and took a 63-60 lead with 1:06 left in the game. After White scored off an offensive rebound with 35 seconds left, Darius Faulk made a key steal and the ensuing layup to give the Pride the lead for good.
“They always get on me about reaching in,” Faulk said. “I said I had to get the steal at this point, so I reached in, got the steal…two points.”
Faulk made a free throw to extend the Pride lead to 65-63 with six seconds left. Navy had one final trip up the court, but Taylor Dunham’s three-pointer missed and the Pride had a dramatic and well-deserved victory.
The men’s team fell behind quickly against Canisius as the team was unable to slow down guard Malcolm McMillan who had 18 points in the first 12 minutes of the game and finished with a game-high 33. At one point, the Pride trailed 36-18 and looked like they were in for a long night.
But coach Joe Mahalich switched from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone and Hofstra gradually regained pecked away at the Canisius lead.
“Our man-to-man defense was horrible, so we played zone,” Mihalich explained. “We came out soft and they took advantage, especially McMillan. He got some confidence and the basket just kept getting bigger and bigger for him.”
The Pride bounced back and went on a 13-2 run and trailed by only two points at the half, 47-45.
Juan’ya Green overcame a slow start and caught fire down the stretch. Green finished with 16 points with many of them coming in the clutch.
“For the first 30 minutes, we didn’t see the Juan’ya we know,” Mihalich said. “For the last 10 minutes, it was the best Juan’ya we’ve ever seen.”
Meanwhile, Brian Bernardi set a new Hofstra record with eight three-pointers in one game. He finished 8-of-11 from behind the arc and led all Pride players with 26 points.
“Every time I shoot I think it’s going in,” Bernardi said. “I try to be sneaky and get to a place where I can get my shot off.”
“There are guys who can shoot and there are shooters,” Mihalich added. “Brian’s a shooter. There are a lot of guys who can shoot, but being a shooter is a mentality.”
In all, six Hofstra players finished in double figures and the Pride outrebounded the Golden Griffins 41-34. Malik Nichols and Rokas Gustys each finished with 10 boards and 13 points.
Although the Pride took a four-point lead early in the second half, Canisius again went on a run and led by as many as 11 with 9:08 left in the second half. Again, Hofstra refused to quit and went on a 12-2 run to get right back in the game largely due to the outside shooting of Bernardi and some hustle under the boards.
“It was a very mature win,” Mihalich said. “That had loss written all over it. We were in trouble…So that’s a win that can really pay dividends for us. We swam back and took control in the second half but they went back up by eight but we just never lost our composure and we made plays…That’s what winning teams do.”
The men’s team returns to action Monday at 7 pm when they host Malloy. The women’s team will host Stony Brook on Tuesday at 7 pm. Both games are at the Mack Sports Complex.
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