Hofstra Edged by St. John’s in First UBS Arena Visit

gohofstra.com

ELMONT, N.Y — Despite being on the short end of sizable disparities in free throw shooting, rebounding, and second-chance points, the Hofstra Pride hung in well with its local rival, the St. John’s Red Storm.

But Hofstra’s first visit to UBS Arena ended with the Pride finding itself in the same place as last year — completing non-conference play 7-6 with a fourth defeat in five games heading into its conference schedule after losing to St. John’s, 84-79, on Saturday.

Given how last season went, that may not be so bad for the Pride, which likewise started 7-6 and had four straight losses before beating Division III Old Westbury at home, and then went an impressive 16-2 in the Colonial (now Coastal) Athletic Association to earn the top seed in the CAA tournament.

Third-year head coach Craig “Speedy” Claxton said, “I’m proud my guys. I told [them], ‘If we play like we did today in conference we’re going to win a lot of ballgames.’”

In a matchup of two schools separated by a little over 18 miles, with UBS Arena (which opened in November, 2021) in between, St. John’s (9-4) outrebounded Hofstra, 45-27, including 15-7 on the offensive glass, leading to a 23-6 advantage in second-chance points.

The Pride also committed nearly twice as many fouls (23-12), which resulted in the Red Storm going 25-for-31 at the free throw line, where Hofstra was only 3-for-7. Much of that occurred in the second half, when the Pride was called for 17 fouls while St. John’s was in the bonus for the last 14:11 of the game and went 22-for-27 at the line after halftime.

That was enough to hold off a second half charge from Hofstra’s three key starters, graduate transfer guard Tyler Thomas, junior transfer guard Darlinstone Dubar, and junior guard Jaquan Carlos, who together, combined for all but six of the Pride’s 47 second-half points. Thomas scored 16 of his 24 points, Dubar 15 of his 23 points, and Carlos, all 10 of his points after the break.

The Red Storm’s five scorers in double figures were more balanced in each half but the one who led St. John’s — senior transfer graduate guard Daniss Jenkins — who along with narrowly missing a triple double (with nine rebounds, a team-best eight assists, and no turnovers), scored 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half.

Hofstra led for only 2:12 (compared to 33:08 for St. John’s) and was last in front, 20-18, on a Dubar jumper with 7:06 left in the opening half before staying within 36-32 by intermission following a first half in which the Red Storm led by no more than six.

St. John’s scored the first nine points out of the locker room and took the game’s first double-digit lead, at 43-32, forcing a Claxton timeout just 1:54 into the second half. A pair of free throws after the timeout pushed the lead to a game-high 13 points before the Pride started to battle back.

A Dubar dunk capped a 14-4 Hofstra run that narrowed the difference to 49-46, but the Red Storm increased its lead back to 11 twice more before the Pride made things interesting over the final ten minutes.

A Thomas 3-pointer capped an 18-10 surge that made it 71-68 with 4:09 remaining before Carlos kept the game at the same margin three different times on layups, the last coming at 77-74 with just under a minute to go.

Hofstra had a good defensive stand for most of the next St. John’s possession, but with the Red Storm inbounding with eight seconds to shoot out of a timeout, Jenkins made a clutch right-wing jumper off the dribble to put St. John’s up five with 24.5 seconds left.

The Pride suffered a bit of bad luck down the stretch as a short Thomas jumper that could have brought Hofstra to within 75-74 rimmed in-and-out with 1:32 left and the same happened on a Dubar floater which could have made it 79-76 with 16.2 seconds left.

We could have easily won this game if the ball bounced other ways.” Claxton said.

Another Carlos layup, on a fast break, made it 81-76 and after Jenkins made one of two free throws, a Thomas 3 cut the St. John’s lead to 82-79 with 2.5 seconds left, but Jenkins iced the game with a couple of free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining.

He carried us on his back to win the game,” head coach Rick Pitino said of Jenkins, whom Pitino brought over from his previous stop at Iona prior to taking the reins at St. John’s for this season. “Every time we had to have a score so they wouldn’t take the lead, he did it.”

Jenkins added, “That’s my goal every night, to get into the paint and make plays for my teammates. It just so happens that today, it was my turn to make a layup.”

Due to an injured back, Hofstra was without 6-foot-10 starting forward Jacco Fritz, going against a bigger and more physical St. John’s squad up front, although the Red Storm was also missing starting senior transfer guard Chris Ledlum to injury.

We were undermanned,” Claxton said. “Jacco Fritz was out, so we had to kind of play small. I guess it kind of cost us on the boards in the second half.”

Despite the loss, Claxton and his team received high praise from Pitino, a Hall of Famer, national champion and former National Coach of the Year.

I think they’re extremely difficult to guard,” Pitino said of Hofstra. “To go out there and have to guard the 3 with these guys is very difficult and then when you guard the 3, they just exploited us with drives.

They played great and we knew this was coming. We told [our] guys before the game that, ‘They’re going to try to mismatch us on every single play,’ because we played them two times at Iona. We lost at the buzzer last year because we struggled with the pick-and-roll at Iona and don’t take this the wrong way — we had a much better team at Iona than we do at St. John’s — it’s not about talent [but] those guys were together. This [St. John’s] team eventually could be better once they play together, defensively, especially.”

On Dubar’s 10-for-17 shooting, Pitino added, “Dubar killed us last year. He makes tough shots [again today]. We were in his face on almost all of them.”

Regarding Claxton’s coaching at the alma mater where Claxton starred as a player before later becoming an NBA champion, Pitino said, “I’ve shaken hands with Dean Smith, Frank McGuire, Lou Carnesecca, you name it, from Bill Self to every great coach that’s been in this country, and I was close friends with John Wooden — so don’t exaggerate this — but Speedy Claxton is one of the best coaches I’ve coached against in my lifetime because he takes advantage of every mismatch that’s out there and he’ll sub accordingly. I said that at Iona last year. This is a rising star in our game.”

Pitino, who worked Claxton out when he coached the Boston Celtics at the beginning of Claxton’s NBA career more than two decades ago, was integral in renewing the rivalry between the two schools after a 14-year hiatus. St. John’s improved to 23-5 against Hofstra all-time, wining the prior meeting in 2009 after the Pride won the previous four matchups from 2003-06.

We played against a local opponent on a big stage and we held our own,” Claxton said. “The previous coaches, I guess the chose not to play us, so I’m happy Coach Pitino got [St. John’s] the job. Once he got the job, I knew he would definitely be up to playing us, not just this year, but moving forward. Hopefully, this can be a yearly thing.”

Noting that Hofstra’s non-conference results look very similar to last year’s before his team won the CAA regular season title, a confident Claxton said, “We have the same record as we did last year going into conference play. We’re just going to try to keep building as the season progresses.

We had a very tough non-league schedule, like we do always, but it’s to prepare us for when we get into conference play. We design our schedule just be like that. I feel like we’re in a good place.”

Dubar added, “There were some games that we were close to winning, but we are where we’re at right now and we’re going to keep moving forward. I like where we’re at and I know we’re going to do great things in the conference.”

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons).Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship).He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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