Hofstra has been known to pull off a miracle or two this season. The Pride came through in the clutch once more Friday night with an 87-81 overtime victory over James Madison keyed by 26 points from Justin Wright-Foreman, including the game’s biggest bucket.
With 4.1 seconds on the clock and the Pride trailing 72-69, Eli Pemberton inbounded cross-court to Matija Radovic, who kicked it to an open Wright-Foreman on the left wing. The junior rose and buried the tying triple with just over a second remaining in regulation.
“Coach did a great job of drawing up a play,” Wright-Foreman said of the sequence. “We work on it every day in practice. It works here and there, but in the game it paid out to our advantage.”
— Hofstra Basketball (@HofstraMBB) January 6, 2018
The Pride survived a career high 37 points from James Madison redshirt junior Stuckey Mosley, who matched a program record with nine made three-pointers and added a career-best six steals before fouling out late in overtime.
“When he fouled out, I said this is the only time I feel like we’re going to stop him,” Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said of Stuckey. “Because he’s sitting on the bench.”
Hofstra freshman Jalen Ray matched a personal best with five made threes en route to a career-high 18 points. He joined Wright-Foreman and forward Rokas Gustys (12) in double figures.
“Jalen’s taken advantage of his opportunities,” Mihalich said of the freshman. “If you produce, you’re going to stay on the floor. If you don’t, I’ve got to put somebody else in who’s going to do it.”
With the victory, Hofstra improves to 2-1 in Colonial Athletic Association play. Here are three thoughts on the Pride from Friday night:
With 7:10 remaining, Wright-Foreman fed a pass to Rokas Gustys alone under the basket. Gustys put home the layup and in the process became the 35th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points. Gustys entered the night needing just 10 points to reach the milestone, and capped the evening with 12 points and a season-high 18 rebounds.
“You’re gonna’ get it, enjoy the moment when it happens, but just let it come naturally and play hard,” Mihalich said, recalling a pregame conversation with Gustys. “You’ve already basically rewritten the record books at Hofstra. Next step is to get this team to win as many games as possible, and the ultimate dream is getting to the NCAA Tournament.”
Gustys’ rebounding prowess actually allowed him to pull down 1,000 career rebounds a few weeks before reaching the milestone in points. The senior accomplished the feat on the glass at Siena over Thanksgiving weekend and has been among the top four rebounders in Division I each of the last two seasons.
Gustys is just the third player in Hofstra history and the second at the Division I level to reach both 1,000 career points and rebounds. With his ninth board of the night, Gustys moved into third place all-time among CAA players in rebounding.
“I’m glad we won, that’s the most important thing,” Gustys said. “It doesn’t matter if we lose and I get the 1,000. Nobody’s going to talk about it, no one’s going to want to know about it. It’s just nice that we won, and 1,000 is good.”
Wright-Foreman entered Friday night averaging 24.4 ppg, good for fourth in all of Division I. The junior was hounded by the Dukes’ defense throughout the first half, ending the opening stanza with just six points.
Visibly frustrated at multiple points over the course of the game, Wright-Foreman was held without a field goal for the first 12 minutes after the intermission, but then broke through with a three-point play to knot the game at 57 with 7:43 remaining.
“The frustration was really with myself,” Wright-Foreman said. “I wasn’t really hitting shots in the beginning, but then I realized that was kind of selfish of me. I just tried to pick myself up and be more positive about the situation, because shots are going to fall. I’m a scorer, so I’ve just got to keep shooting. My teammates gave me great confidence, told me to keep shooting the ball. So did the coaches, so that’s what I kept doing.”
Wright-Foreman scored 10 points in the final eight minutes of regulation, then added another eight points in the extra period. The junior has now finished in double figures in his last 37 games dating back to a meeting against Kentucky at the Barclays Center on December 11, 2016.
“It’s always about the next play,” Mihalich said of Wright-Foreman’s mentality. “If he would have thought about the previous 32 minutes, he wouldn’t have been able to perform successfully the last eight. That’s a credit to his poise, a credit to his confidence as always, and he knew that if he just kept his head together he could score some points.”
Wright-Foreman will likely join his teammate in the 1,000 point club this weekend. The Queens native sits just nine points shy of the milestone entering Sunday’s contest against Elon.
Perhaps the most impressive factor regarding Wright-Foreman’s upcoming accomplishment is the fact that he has not even been a major contributor for two full seasons. Wright-Foreman logged just 44 total points during his freshman campaign in 2015-16 and did not reach double figures for the first time until the third game of his sophomore season.
Last season, a series of close losses led to Hofstra’s season spiraling out of control.
The Pride were 9-5 and kicked off the conference slate with a win at Delaware, then returned home to face William & Mary. That game ended with Daniel Dixon’s infamous three-pointer at the overtime buzzer which jump-started a six game losing streak for Hofstra. The Pride would end up finishing 7-11 in CAA play with four losses decided by four points or fewer.
This year, the hope is a series of clutch moments will propel the team forward. Jalen Ray’s improbable three-pointer to salvage a victory at Monmouth earlier in the season was the prelude to Wright-Foreman’s heroics Friday. Momentum is everything in basketball, and when that moxie becomes contagious, wonderful things can happen.
“You hope you’re going to build on it,” Mihalich said of the nail-biting victories. “It’s about embracing it, understanding what a great win this is, and making yourselves hungry for more. There’s two things you deal with in life: success and failure. If you’re successful, you should want more success, and if you fail you should not want to fail, that’s pretty obvious. Hopefully our guys are going to want more of this success and be hungry for it.”
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.