HEMPSTEAD, N.Y — Another conference game, another blowout win for the Hofstra Pride.
In a matchup that often looked physically unfair, first-place Hofstra rode an eyepopping 40-8 advantage in the paint, a game-high 21 points from senior guard Aaron Estrada (who is poised to win a second consecutive Colonial Association Player of the Year award), and a near double-double from sophomore point guard Jaquan Carlos (eight assists, 10 rebounds) to a 73-43 humiliation of the last-place Hampton Pirates at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex on Thursday night.
The Pride’s ninth straight win was put away early as Hofstra (21-8, 14-2 CAA) recorded a league victory by at least 13 points for a 12th time this season (with half of those triumphs coming by at least 20 points) and won by at least 30 points in a CAA contest for the first time this year. One of the earlier dominant wins was by 16 points, at Hampton, on Jan. 5.
Once sophomore guard Darlinstone Dubar (eight points) started the scoring on a jumper (fittingly, in the paint) 22 seconds into the game, Estrada and his usual sidekick, senior guard Tyler Thomas (13 points), evenly split the Pride’s next 16 points to give Hofstra a commanding 18-5 lead after less than six minutes.
Later on, graduate forward Warren Williams often looked like a man amongst boys while repeatedly beating up Hampton (6-22, 3-12) in the lane to add a dozen points.
Closing the first half on a 27-10 spurt, the Pride took a 45-17 lead into the locker room, having already scored more than the Pirates would record all game.
“A great job by the boys,” second-year head coach Craig “Speedy” Claxton said. “They came out and played the right way from beginning to end. We took it to [Hampton] and there was no letup.”
Hofstra’s sizeable halftime margin was pushed to as much as 33 points on three separate occasions in the second half before Hampton ultimately finished the game shooting just 23.4 percent (15-for-64) from the field, having been limited by a stingy Pride defense that allowed fewer than 59 points for a fourth consecutive game.
“I keep saying, ‘Offense wins games, defense wins championships,’ and we want to be known as a really good defensive team,” Claxton said. “To these kids’ credit, they’re locked into the game plan.”
Claxton credited his staff for that plan while Estrada was thankful to the same for putting himself and his teammates in a good position to execute well.
“I think we’re just staying well-connected and we’re preparing really well,” Estrada said. “Knowing [opponents’] tendencies, what they like to do, what they don’t like to do, I feel like all that is leading to our success on the defensive end.”
As Estrada’s head nodded in agreement, Claxton added, “My assistant coaches do a great job of game-planning.”
With only two regular season games left (with Hofstra heavily favored to win both, at Stony Brook on Saturday and on Senior Day at home against Northeastern a week later) the Pride controls its own destiny to earn the top seed in the CAA tournament early next month.
So far, Hofstra has placed itself in that enviable position by maintaining the same type of steady focus, an approach that the Pride will continue to follow, especially as the calendar flips from February to March.
“We try not to play the scoreboard,” Claxton said. “We want to build good habits here down the stretch and have some consistent play on both sides of the basketball, whether it’s defense or offense. We don’t look at the scoreboard, we go out there and try to get a stop… or try to get a score on every possession.”
Heading to the conference tournament in Washington, D.C. as CAA regular season champions and a tournament favorite is, of course, the first main goal, but it’s not something that Hofstra wishes to discuss as the Pride keeps ticking off its in-season accomplishment checklist with the regular season soon drawing to a close.
“We kinda just don’t talk about it,” Claxton said. “We know what’s at stake. These guys are focused, it’s tunnel vision, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re just going to be focused on one game at a time.”