Hofstra took a trip to the shore and it ended up dead in the water. Until a miracle took place in New Jersey.
With five seconds on the clock and somehow down three after a furious comeback, Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman appeared to be fouled in the act of launching a half-court shot. Despite coach Joe Mihalich’s furious protest, the junior went to the line for a one-and-one.
Wright-Foreman sunk the first, then intentionally clunked the second. Little-used Stafford Trueheart then stepped into the lane and punched the ball out to the waiting arms of Jalen Ray. The freshman somehow, miraculously buried a triple with two seconds remaining to put the Pride up a point.
“We do situations in practice every day, so it just translated to this game and it worked,” Wright-Foreman said of the final play.
“I just tipped it out to the 3-point line, hoping someone was out there, and he was out there,” Trueheart added of the final sequence.
Monmouth’s Micah Seaborn launched a prayer in response, but it hit off front iron, sending Hofstra home the unlikeliest of winners.
The Pride let MAAC power Monmouth shoot 63 percent in the first half and predictably trailed by 13 at the break. The Hawks pushed their lead to 14 in the opening minutes of the second stanza and appeared well on their way to a solid victory heading into their showdown with Kentucky this Saturday.
That’s when the unlikely heroes stepped in.
“We couldn’t have been more listless in the first half,” Mihalich said after the game. “It was one of our lowest moments. The guys really responded. I think we appealed to their pride and their integrity at halftime, and then these guys decided they wanted to play the game the right way and play the way they can.”
Ray, who capped the night with career highs in points (14) and 3-point field goals (4), knocked down three triples in a row for the Pride, pulling his team within four with just over 10 minutes left to play.
“When you start making them early, you’ve got confidence,” Ray said of his shooting. “Even if you miss, you’ve got to keep shooting.”
Then Hofstra took a haymaker.
Ray came up with the steal on Monmouth’s next possession and it appeared the Pride would pull through. But then Hunter Sabety muffed a dunk and Trueheart couldn’t get a layup to fall after corralling the offensive rebound.
Monmouth responded in true Hawk fashion. Seaborn – who earlier in the game became the fourth-fastest Monmouth player to reach the 1,000-career point plateau – came through with five straight points to buoy the Hawks’ lead back to nine.
Hofstra, which has had its heart crushed so many times in both recent and distant memory, could easily have folded. Everyone in the building expected them to.
As they often do, the Pride failed to live up to expectations. Instead, graduate transfer Joel Angus III kicked off a 10-0 run with four consecutive free throws before Ray, Trueheart, and Wright-Foreman capped the run with buckets of their own to bring Hofstra all the way back and into a 71-70 lead.
The Pride entered the final minute with control of the ball in a 79-all tie. Momentum in their favor, it appeared they would grab a pivotal lead. At worst they would get two opportunities to score. Again they defied expectations.
Instead Hofstra turned it over twice, leading to five quick Monmouth points. The Pride officially entered “dead in the water” territory, but somehow came out swimming.
Monmouth has struggled from the line this season, and their 8-17 mark from the charity stripe ultimately doomed them Wednesday night.
“I think we relaxed a little bit, but I think what it comes down to is we have to get stops at the end and make free throws,” Monmouth’s Austin Tilghman said. “That’s been our biggest problem this season. Once we come together and get stops and hit those free throws, we’ll be fine.”
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.