In a battle between two of the top teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, it was Hofstra who came out on top in a 73-71 victory over UNCW Monday night from inside the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex. Hofstra moves to 15-9 overall and 7-4 in the CAA following tonight’s win, and UNCW sees its record fall to 16-7 overall and 10-2 in the conference.
The reigning CAA Player of the Week, Aaron Estrada continued his torrid 2021-22 season with 23 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Darlinstone Dubar pitched in with 20 points and a team-leading two steals, while Zach Cooks scored 16 points, including 14 in the second half, and added five rebounds and three assists. Caleb Burgess led the Pride with seven assists, and Abayomi Iyiola matched Estrada with seven boards.
The two teams traded the lead five times in the opening five minutes before Hofstra pulled away with an 11-4 run keyed by an Estrada jumper and featuring a three-pointer by Omar Silverio and baskets by Cooks, Iyiola and Dubar, putting the Pride in front by eight at the 6:21 mark of the half. UNCW battled back with a three-minute, 13-2 run, including 10 unanswered points, to lead by two with 3:12 to go. An Estrada three-pointer and a fast-break layup from Dubar put Hofstra back in front before the halftime buzzer sounded.
Hofstra jumped out to two separate three-point leads inside the first two minutes of the second half thanks to a thunderous dunk by Dubar and a pair of Iyiola free throws, but the Seahawks retook the lead with a pair of layups. A layup and free throw from Dubar was followed by back-to-back UNCW layups to put the visitors ahead by three. The Seahawks led by as many as four points with 9:50 to go before Dubar scored on a layup and Cooks sunk a three-pointer to put the hosts back in front with 8:30 still to play.
The back-and-forth second half continued down the stretch with seven lead changes inside the final eight minutes before Hofstra pulled ahead by four thanks to a Dubar jumper and a big three-pointer from Cooks with 4:45 left in the game. The Seahawks answered with a three of their own on the next possession, but Silverio drove the lane and sank a contested jumper to put Hofstra ahead 67-64 before the final media timeout at 3:55.
The Pride utilized tough defending and solid rebounding to limit UNCW to a single point off a free throw with 1:01 left on the clock after Estrada sunk his fifth shot from three-point range, giving Hofstra a five-point lead seconds earlier. Okaru hit UNCW’s first field goal in four minutes with a three from the corner, followed by another three with 8.3 seconds left, but Cooks hit a free throw with 6.5 seconds remaining and the Pride defense denied UNCW a driving layup as time expired to give Hofstra the win in front of the home crowd.
Mike Okaru led the Seahawks with 25 points while contributing two rebounds and two assists, while Jaylen Sims tallied a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Hofstra faces a quick turnaround when they hit the road for the first of three CAA road games, beginning on Thursday at 7 p.m. against Drexel. The Pride returns to the Mack on February 19 against Northeastern at 2 p.m. Hofstra men’s basketball tickets are available for purchase at HofstraTickets.com, by calling (516) HOF-TIXX, or by visiting the Hofstra Athletic Ticket Office in the lobby of the Mack Sports Complex during normal business hours.
-Hofstra ups its all-time record against UNCW to 25-23.
-Estrada finished with double-digit points for the 11th consecutive game, and it was his 11th game this season with at least 20 points scored.
-With tonight’s win, Hofstra’s home record now stands at 9-1.
–Jalen Ray finished with three points in tonight’s game, giving him 1,626 points for his career. He is 51 points away from tying Norman Richardson (1,677, 1997-01) for the 11th-most points in a career in Hofstra men’s basketball history.
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