HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — After a rough first year as the head men’s basketball coach of the Hofstra Pride, former Niagara coach Joe Mihalich has some help from his former school, which is already paying off.
That was the case again on Sunday afternoon, when Niagara junior transfers and Philadelphia natives, guard Juan’ya Green and forward Ameen Tanskley, combined for 41 points to lead Hofstra (3-1) to an easy 93-71 win over the Wagner Seahawks at the Mack Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon.
Green, who leads Hofstra (which improved to 3-0 at home) with 19.8 points per game this season, made six of nine field goal attempts and 11 of 12 free throws while posting game
highs of 24 points and 11 assists, with just one turnover. Meanwhile, Tanskley (the Pride’s second leading scorer, with 14.5 points per game), had 17 points while making all five of his 3-point attempts.
“You sleep a lot better when you’ve got someone like Juan’ya on your team,” Mihalich admitted. “You look at the stats, he only took nine shots. He’s so efficient and the assist to turnover ratio, I’m a lucky guy to be his coach and I think his teammates love playing with him too… when you lead your team in points and assists, that says something about you.”
Mihalich was also pleased with Tanksley’s play. Thanks in large part to his sharpshooting, Hofstra made 10 of its first 14 shots from behind the arc (before missing its last three). The Pride was 5-for-7 (71.4 percent) from that distance and shot a blistering 72.7 percent (16-for-22) overall during the opening half while building a comfortable 47-30 halftime lead.
All 10 Hofstra players who saw action scored, as sophomore guards Jamall Robinson (13 points, 8-for-8 at the foul line) and Brian Bernardi (11 points, 6-for-8 at the foul line) joined Green and Tanksley in double figures in scoring.
The far more aggressive Pride also enjoyed a tremendous edge at the free throw line, where it had 36 more attempts (49-13) and made 26 more (35-9) foul shots. Much of that difference came in the second half, when Hofstra was 25-for-34 at the line, compared to Wagner’s 7-for-8.
After the Seahawks (1-3) scored five straight points to take their only lead (7-6), the Pride answered with the next nine points to go up for good, 15-7.
A 17-3 run later in the half broke the game open and gave Hofstra a commanding 43-22 lead, with 2:08 left in the half.
Wagner (1-3), which was led by 15 points from reserve guard Aaren Edmead and 13 points from starting guard Marcus Burton, never got closer than 47-32, the rest of the way. The Seahawks later missed eight straight shots as the Pride scored that many points in a row to push its lead to 55-32.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Tanksely capped a string of 14 straight Hofstra points that turned a 16-point edge into a 81-51 advantage, just before the Pride took its largest lead, at 83-52, with 4:59 left.
Reflecting on Hofstra’s previous game, Mihalich said, “We had to worry about… a little bit of a hangover because we had such a great, exciting win (on a shot in the final seconds over Long Island rival Stony Brook) on Friday night.
“I thought our guys really answered the bell. They did what they were supposed to do in the first half. We were aggressive defensively [and] offensively, and I thought that set the tone.”
Looking ahead, Mihalich joked about traveling for a game at South Florida on Tuesday night, to complete a fairly grueling stretch having to play a third game since Friday night.
“It’s three games in five days,” he said. “I‘d be upset with whoever did the schedule, but I did the schedule, so I have to give myself a pass there.”
Of course, it’s easier for Mihalich to do that already having a couple of wins in the bank during that period, while knowing his old Niagara recruits are leading the way.