The Battle of Long Island could better be described as a massacre.
The 2016 renewal of the series between Hofstra and Stony Brook, the two Division I programs on Long Island, lacked the drama of the previous two years’ iterations as Hofstra dismantled the Seawolves 96-58 on their home court at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead.
The Pride placed five players in double figures, led by sophomore Justin Wright-Foreman’s career-high 22. The Queens, NY native scored just 44 points in his entire freshman season last year while battling for playing time in a crowded backcourt, but has already finished six games in double figures this season.
“This is no surprise to us, the way he scored tonight,” head coach Joe Mihalich said of Wright-Foreman. “He did it all through the preseason. He just had to get comfortable and get a little bit of confidence. He just needed to have a little bit of success to get his confidence. The man can really score, and if he continues like this and feeling comfortable out there, I think there will be more games like this.”
Hofstra opened the game on a 17-4 run and never looked back, controlling the pace of the game throughout. The Pride led by as many as 43 late in the game as their offense and defense hummed along at their best levels all season.
The 96 points set a new season high for the Pride, who held an opponent under 60 points for the third time this season, the second time against a Division I opponent. Hofstra’s offense clicked along at a pace of 1.37 points per possession while Stony Brook was held to 0.82.
The Seawolves, working their way through the loss of a talented senior class including Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy who helped lead the team to their first NCAA Tournament last season, are still very much a work in progress under first-year head coach Jeff Boals.
“We’ve been down in a lot of other games, but this is the first time all year, in ten games, that we didn’t show the fight or the grit to compete,” Boals said after the game. “When we missed some shots early, we let that affect everything else, defense, transition, the rest of the game.”
One of the players brought in to help rebuild the Seawolves, freshman Michael Almonacy, was one of the few positives for Stony Brook Tuesday night. The Brentwood, NY native poured in a career-high 15 points to lead the Seawolves.
“He was the most aggressive guy for us,” Boals said of Almonacy. “Offensively, he gave us a spark. He played fearless, drove in there, hit some big shots. It was definitely the one bright spot for us.”
Hofstra freshman Eli Pemberton continued his torrid career start with an 18-point effort Tuesday night. Pemberton has now scored in double figures in nine of the team’s 12 games this season.
Senior leaders Deron Powers and Brian Bernardi helped facilitate the offense as well. Powers finished with 13 points and seven assists while Bernardi shot 3-5 from downtown, ending up with 11 points and four assists for the evening.
Both Ty Greer and Rokas Gustys notched double-doubles. Gustys finished with 11 points and 18 boards while Greer knocked down 14 points and nabbed 12 rebounds. This marked Gustys’ fourth double-double of the season and the first of Greer’s career. The forwards’ dominance led to Hofstra nearly doubling up Stony Brook, 59-30, on the backboards.
The Pride’s stellar effort comes just two days after a loss to #6 Kentucky in a long-awaited matchup at the Barclays Center Sunday afternoon and a week after a hard-fought home loss to St. Bonaventure. For some of Hofstra’s stars, those challenging contests have given the team a boost.
“Looking at Justin Wright-Foreman, he did well against Kentucky and he built that confidence,” Gustys said. “Tonight look at him, he was the leading scorer. The whole team played well. We were concentrated, and I think that Kentucky game really helped us and got us prepared for the next game.”
The Pride return to action Thursday, Dec. 22 when they play host to MAAC contender Siena. Stony Brook will look to rebound this weekend with a trip to Pennsylvania to take on Saint Francis University.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.