HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — It had been a while — five games and 24 days — since the Hofstra Pride had seen its top two players, senior forward Ameen Tanksley and guard Juan’ya Green, lead their team as to a win as the top scorers. And it had been even longer — nine games and 36 days — since Hofstra played on its home floor.
The rekindled, familiar feelings of some home cooking along with the Pride’s two best players once again putting Hofstra on their collective backs at the same time helped the Pride (7-4) start a season-long, three-game homestand by snapping a two-game losing streak with a rather easy 68-54 win over the Florida Atlantic Owls (2-10) at the Mack Sports Complex on Tuesday night.
Winning by the amount of points that Hofstra was favored by, head coach Joe Mihalich’s team did exactly what it had to do while returning to an earlier time in the season when the Pride showed more mettle than it had recently.
As Mihalich put it, “Just a good, solid win, one of those ‘take care of business wins’. We talked before the game about toughness. We just got away from being tough for a couple of weeks there. Early in the year, we were a tough team and when we’re tough, we’re good. I felt we did that [tonight]… a lot of good things tonight.”
Picking up from the 15-point second half he had in a narrow loss at Stony Brook on Sunday, Tanskley scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the opening half as Green, the Colonial Athletic Association preseason Player of the Year, added 10 in the half and finished with 19 points and four assists.
“I was just desperate,” a determined Tanksley said. “I needed to win. I wasn’t going home without a win… that’s my mindset now, to be aggressive… I kind of shied away from that [at times] last year. This year I’m not. It’s my last year.”
Allowing FAU to climb within two points after building an early 14-7 lead, Hofstra used consecutive 3-pointers from Tanskley and a 3-points play from Green to spark a run of 11 straight points that gave the Pride a 34-21 lead just before the Owls got a bucket to beat the buzzer.
Picking up with the way the first half ended, Hofstra began the second half with another 11-2 run, behind consecutive layups from sophomore center Rokas Gustys (six points) and five straight points from junior guard Brian Bernardi (on a layup and 3-pointer), to take the game’s largest lead, 45-25.
FAU held the Pride scoreless for nearly four minutes — until Tanskley scored his first points of the second half on a 3-pointer with 12:07 left — while going on a 12-4 spurt, to close within 49-37.
However, after leading by 13 with just over five minutes remaining, 3-pointers by senior forward Denton Koon (seven points), Bernardi and Green keyed a 9-3 run that extended Hofstra’s lead to 68-49 with 1:43 to play.
After Tanskley started the scoring with a 3-pointer, the Pride missed 10 straight shots from behind the arc before making eight of its last 15 from that distance.
Led by 11 rebounds each from Tanskley and Koon, and another 10 from Gustys, Hofstra dominated FAU on the glass, 48-27, while grabbing a season-high 18 offensive rebounds, as the Pride took full advantage of the absence C.J. Turman, the Owls’ former 6-foot-9, 250-pound center, who only a day before, was dismissed from FAU for team rules violations.
Ironically, the last time Hofstra had three players reach double figures in rebounds in a game was during the initial meeting between the Pride and Owls, in Hofstra’s non-conference, season-opening home win over FAU on November 17, 2001, prior to the Pride’s’s first-ever CAA game later that season.
That win started a streak of five straight Hofstra wins over FAU before the Owls won the next three games in the series.
But as with finally getting back to playing at home again and having Tanksley and Green lead the way like before, the Pride restored the previous order over FAU again.
Next up, Hofsrta will host Sacred Heart on Monday, before opening its CAA schedule while closing out the calendar year and its current homestand against longtime rival Delaware three days later.