Wilmington, NC – Senior forward Arminas Urbutis (Kaunas, Lithuania) scored a put back at the buzzer after a key steal from junior guard Tony Dennison (Long Island City, NY) to give Hofstra an 80-78 win over UNC Wilmington on Wednesday at Trask Coliseum.
Sophomore guard Charles Jenkins (Queens, NY) had a career-high 33 points and Dennison (Long Island City, NY) scored all 10 of his in the second half and set up the winning points with his defense. Sophomore guard Nathaniel Lester (Brooklyn, NY) added a season-high 18 points.
With the win, Hofstra improves to 14-7 overall and 6-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association, while capturing its fourth straight victory. UNC Wilmington falls to 5-17 overall and 2-8 in the CAA with the loss.
Hofstra trailed by three points (78-75) with 1:34 to go after two foul shots from sophomore guard Chad Tomko, but Dennison came up with a key step-back jumper to cut the lead to 78-77 with 1:13 to go. UNC Wilmington guard Devon Moore then turned the ball over when he dribbled off his leg and Jenkins was fouled on a drive with 34 seconds left. He made one of two to tie the game, and UNC Wilmington took its final possession with the shot clock off.
The Seahawks called their final time out with 12 seconds left, but the Pride caught them off guard when they trapped sophomore guard Chad Tomko as he crossed midcourt. Tomko was hemmed in on the sideline and tried to throw a bounce pass to the middle of the floor, but Dennison read the play and stepped in for a steal. Dennison drove into the paint and collided with Tomko before ending up on the floor with the ball in his hands. Not knowing how much time was left, he tried to shoot while sitting on the ground underneath the basket and left the ball short, but Urbutis was trailing the play, grabbed the ball out of mid-air and hit an uncontested lay-up as the horn sounded to give the Pride another dramatic win.
Hofstra is now 9-1 this season in games decided by five points or less, including the last two which were decided in the final seconds. On Saturday, Hofstra defeated James Madison 69-68 on a five-foot jumper with 1.9 seconds left on the clock.
Neither team led by more than four points until 8:19 left in regulation, when junior guard Cornelius Vines (Syracuse, NY) hit a three-pointer from the left wing to put Hofstra ahead 67-61, capping off a 7-0 run. Dennison started the run with back-to-back baskets on drives into the paint. However, junior guard Montez Downey, who had all 17 of his points in the second half, hit a three-pointer and then made three foul shots after fouled in the act behind the arc to tie the score quickly back up at 67-67.
UNC Wilmington held a 41-38 lead at the half, as the Pride trailed at the half for the fourth straight game during its current four-game winning streak. Neither team led by more than four during the opening stanza, as Jenkins had 16 points on four three-pointers and four foul shots and UNC Wilmington guard Chad Tomko nearly matched him with 15 points.
Jenkins’ previous career high was 31 points, set earlier this season against East Tennessee State. Lester’s 18 points marked the second straight game he scored his season high, as he had 11 points in Saturday’s win over James Madison. His career high was 20 set last year against Stony Brook.
Hofstra will next be in action when it returns home to face VCU on Saturday at the Mack Sports Complex for a 12 p.m. contest, which will be sponsored by State Farm. Former Hofstra guard Craig “Speedy” Claxton will have his jersey number (#10) retired prior to the game, which will be televised locally on the MSG+ Network.