HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Twenty years ago, former college star and first-round NBA draft pick Craig “Speedy” Claxton led Hofstra with 19 points in a 74-46 win over Boston University to open Hofstra Arena on Jan. 2, 2000.
Exactly two decades later, the building and the team go by different names, and Claxton is in a different role as a Hofstra assistant coach. This time, there was little Claxton could do as the William & Mary Tribe jumped on the Hofstra Pride early and never looked back during an 88-61 victory in front of a sparse crowd of 1,725 fans at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex on Thursday night.
Handing the Colonial Athletic Association preseason favorite its first conference loss of the season and snapping Hofstra’s five-game winning streak, William & Mary (10-5, 2-0 CAA) made seven of its first eight shots and finished 62.5 percent (35-for-56) while Hofstra (11-5, 2-1 CAA) was held to just 34.3 percent shooting (23-for-67), including an abysmal 16 percent (4-for-25) from 3-point range.
The cruelest irony was that 20 years after inaugurating its home building with a lopsided win, the Pride lost by almost the same margin while hoisting enough bricks to build another arena.
Meanwhile, the balanced Tribe had eight players score at least six points, led by senior transfer forward Andy Van Vliet (18 points), senior center Nathan Knight (15 points, game-high 12 rebounds) and junior guard Luke Loewe (12 points).
William & Mary scored the first seven points before Hofstra answered with a 7-2 run to get within 9-7. The Pride then went nearly six minutes without a point and 7:47 between field goals as the Tribe surged ahead with 13 straight points during an 18-1 run, to lead, 27-8, with 8:29 left in the opening half.
By halftime, it was 45-23, with William & Mary making three times as many shots (18-6) as Hofstra, though each team had 28 field goal attempts at that point.
Perhaps it was a result of staying out too late while ringing in a new decade the night before, but head coach Joe Mihalich noticed “right away” that something was wrong in a rare way during the Pride’s New Year’s Day practice.
“This loss began yesterday with the way we came to practice,” Mihalich said. “The number of times they don’t bring it, you could count on one hand, but we didn’t bring it yesterday. The way you play in practice is the way you play in the game and we didn’t come to practice yesterday.
“A lot of it was attitude and effort, just [lacking] that juice coming off of ball screens or attacking the floor, or pushing the ball, running hard, cutting hard, executing, there was just no area where we were good.”
After trying to regroup at intermission, Hofstra could only get as close as 45-25 during the first minute of the second half before William & Mary ballooned its lead to as much as 34 points on three different occasions over the final six minutes.
Coming off of a pair of roads wins in which the Pride rallied from double-digit deficits in consecutive games to open its CAA schedule, complacency might have set in as Hofstra once again started slowly.
“I’m not sure if we got a little fat and happy,” Mihalich said. “We can’t keep making that a habit because there’s too many good teams out there. I was so proud of our guys for doing that the last two games… both places (at James Madison and at Towson), our second halves, our guys were just terrific.”
However, that was far from the case while preparing for the next game.
“We didn’t come to work,” said Mihalich, who managed to find a silver lining through the disappointment. “We weren’t focused mentally, physically and I guess in some respects, it would’ve been wrong to come out here and play well. It would’ve been a bad lesson. So, hopefully, we learn from that.
“Maybe this could be one of the best things that can happen to us all year. We’ll see. It’s going to be about responding now. I told the team, ‘We’re not going to burn the tape.’ We’re not going to forget it. I’m never going to forget it.”
If forgetting the loss isn’t an option, temporarily putting it aside and moving on quickly will have to be, with Hofstra’s next game at home, against Elon, on Saturday.
“We will be anxious to get this taste out of our mouths,” Mihalich said. “A loss like this, we’ll see what it does to us. We should be embarrassed. I know I am. There’s two things you deal with in life, success and failure, and we failed like crazy tonight. We’ll see how our guys respond to that.”