By Vinny Simone – For Always A Dragon
Final Score: Hofstra 79, Drexel 77
Drexel Player of the Game: Rodney Williams
Key to the Game: Keep your foot on the gas!
Next Game: Thursday, February 9 vs William & Mary
Drexel made the trip to Long Island losers of their last three and five of their last six (the lone win an 81-80 OT decision over Hofstra) but appeared set to close out their daunting swing of five games in ten days with another W over the Pride.
Fate then intervened, and left the Drexel players and staff holding their heads and staring at a scoreboard that read Hofstra: 79 – Guest: 77
While Drexel held a 77-67 advantage with a minute remaining, the Pride stunned the Dragons with a 12 point flurry to close out the game and steal away the win. Hofstra’s late rally was punctuated by a corner three off the hands of sophomore Justin Wright-Foreman which put the Pride over the top with 20 seconds remaining.
The Dragons had an opportunity to salvage the game in the waning seconds, but freshman guard Kari Jonsson’s pull-up jumper with six seconds remaining bounced off back iron and into the hands of the Pride’s freshman, Eli Pemberton, who added the game’s final point on the opposing charity stripe.
Rodney Williams’ three-quarter court heave at the buzzer sailed wide left, and the nightmare came to a crushing conclusion.
“Crazy ending, and it certainly was the cruel side of a basketball game,” a stunned Drexel head coach Zach Spiker said after the final horn. “I thought we were the better team for a very big chunk of the game.”
Williams ended the game as Drexel’s leading scorer with 26 points, though he didn’t first get on the board until just four minutes remained in the first half. Freshman point guard Kurk Lee added 19 to go along with seven rebounds and five assists, but fouled out in the final minute as the Dragons attempted to inbound the ball.
Lee’s final foul instead gave the ball back to Hofstra and led directly to Wright-Foreman’s dagger.
Austin Williams matched a career high with 16 points, with 12 coming in the first half. The junior forward added eight rebounds to his line as the Dragons exercised their physicality for most of the night, leading to a 40-26 advantage on the boards.
After going toe-to-toe with a ferocious Towson squad for 50 minutes Thursday night, the Dragons’ recent tenacity on the glass is a bright spot to take away from what is clearly a tough game to swallow. In the first meeting with Hofstra, the Pride held a 47-37 advantage on the boards.
“We played good, physical basketball,” Spiker added. “The line between winning and losing is so thin, and we just had a tough one today.”
In a bit of a statistical oddity, the trio of Rodney Williams, Lee, and Austin Williams actually accounted for all 37 of Drexel’s points as halftime, as the Dragons took a 37-34 lead into the break. Lee entered the intermission with 17, but was held to just 1-5 shooting in 13 minutes of play in the second half.
Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich stopped short of calling the comeback a “miracle” but did find the moment difficult to describe.
“It’s almost hard to believe you can do something like that, and we did,” Mihalich said. “There’s no way to win this game unless you do something special.”
Wright-Foreman tied for the team lead at 20 with point guard Deron Powers. It was the fifth consecutive game Wright-Foreman notched 20 or more points in a game as the Pride have come to rely on him as their go-to scorer. The sophomore leads the team at 15.9 ppg and averages 21.4 in league play.
Pemberton, who left the first meeting against Drexel with an ankle injury after 15 minutes of action, added 16 points while Brian Bernardi chipped in with 10.
Junior forward Rokas Gustys missed his third consecutive game with a lower body injury.
Drexel gets a chance to regroup as they play at home for four of their next five. They return to action Thursday with a contest against William & Mary Thursday afternoon. However, the Dragons may be without guard Miles Overton down the stretch.
The junior averages 9.5 ppg for the year, but was spotted with a cast on his right arm on the Drexel bench. Following the game, Spiker admitted the junior suffered a wrist injury last time out against Towson and his status would be in doubt for the remainder of the season.