Hempstead, N.Y. - The Hofstra men's basketball team will return home on Tuesday looking to regain momentum with a Colonial Athletic Association matchup against Delaware at 7 p.m. from the Mack Sports Complex.
Hofstra (8-19, 2-13) will be aiming for a split in the regular season series after Delaware (13-12, 9-6) out-lasted the Pride, 67-66, at the Carpenter Center on Jan. 4. The Pride have been battle-tested, coming off a week in which the squad played consecutive road games against teams tied for first place in George Mason and Drexel.
Head coach Mo Cassara's team will be looking to snap a three-game
losing streak. Though Hofstra fell, 78-67, to the Dragons last game, the Pride
showed some positive signs. Hofstra won the turnover battle, 18-7, and became
the first Drexel opponent in 15 games to crack the 60-point plateau.
"Our effort continues to be great and we're fighting in every game," Cassara said. "We just need a couple of more baskets but our rebounding overall has improved."
Senior forward Nathaniel Lester scored 22 of his game-high 27 points in the second half and fellow senior guard Mike Moore added 18. Moore also became the 31st player in Hofstra history to score 1,000 career points for the program.
Lester and Moore have combined for 911 of Hofstra's 1,739
points this season, comprising more than half of the team's total output. The
Pride will be looking for the duo to continue to shoulder the load to combat a
Delaware team peaking at the right time.
The Blue Hens will visit Long Island riding a four-game winning streak, including a thrilling 80-77 overtime victory on the road at Georgia State on Saturday.
For the second time this season, the CAA's top-two scorers
will oppose each other in the matchup. Moore (19.3 points) leads Delaware's
Devon Saddler (18.9) for the league's top mark. In the first meeting between
the schools on Jan. 4, Moore out-scored Saddler, 24-14. Moore has 520 total
points in 27 games this season while Saddler has 473 in 25 games.
The Blue Hens will carry in the conference's second-rated scoring offense. Jamelle Hagins is averaging a double-double, scoring 13 points and collecting 10.8 rebounds per game to lead Delaware's frontcourt. Hagins finished with 21 points and 18 rebounds against the Pride last month.
Historically, Hofstra has dominated the series by doubling up the Blue Hens, 48-24, in the 72 all-time meetings between the schools, which spans the East Coast Conference, America East and CAA. The Pride has won six of the last seven meetings and is 8-3 in Monte Ross' six seasons at the Blue Hens helm, and 16-5 in the CAA era. Only Drexel has faced Hofstra more times than the Blue Hens in the history of the men's basketball program.
Hofstra registered 19 offensive rebounds last game, led by Lester's seven. The Pride also received a boost off the bench from junior guard Stevie Mejia, who tallied a career-high five steals. Mejia, who has shared the point guard responsibilities with senior Dwan McMillan, did not turn the ball over once in 26 minutes while adding three points (all on free throws).
McMillan finished with six assists on the road against the Dragons and has 12 games of five-or-more assists this season despite coming off the bench in the team's first seven games.
While the bulk of Hofstra's offense have come from the one, two and three spots on the court, the Pride will likely need their young forwards to contribute to stay competitive against Delaware.
Haggins was a major factor against Hofstra last month and the Pride will hope sophomore forward Stephen Nwaukoni continues his maturation to combat his physicality. Nwaukoni scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and grabbed four rebounds against Drexel. For a Hofstra team with a short bench, Nwaukoni has also been able to play in control, only picking up two fouls in 25 minutes against a talented Drexel unit.