Hempstead, NY - Hofstra withstood a second half NJIT rally and used a stifling defense and clutch free throw shooting in the final minutes to come away with a 75-64 victory over NJIT Monday night at the Mack Sports Complex.
Hofstra (4-8) held the Highlanders to just one field goal over the final three minutes and forced three turnovers while converting eight of 10 free throws in the final 2:11. NJIT (6-10) suffered its sixth consecutive loss. The Pride had led by as many as 14 points in the second half before NJIT cut the deficit to one with just over four minutes to go.
Hofstra raced out to a 9-0 lead in the first two minutes of the contest. Nesmith opened the scoring with a three-pointer off the opening tip and sophomore Jordan Allen followed with a jumper in the paint for a 5-0 lead. Upshaw converted a jumper in the paint as well and senior Stephen Nwaukoni finished the run with a pair of free throws with 17:51 to play.
The Highlanders scored the next five points on a jumper from Ky Howard and a three-pointer from Damon Lynn to make it a four-point game, 9-5, with 16:26 to play. Upshaw would ignite an 18-6 run with a jumper to give Hofstra a 27-11 lead with 6:28 to go in the opening stanza. Six different players scored for the Pride in the run led by Upshaw’s six points. NJIT used a 9-2 run to get within eight, 28-20, on a Winfield Willis layup with 2:46 on the clock. Hofstra would outscore the Highlanders, 9-3, the rest of the way to take a 37-25 advantage at halftime.
The Pride built the lead to 14 points, 48-34, in the second half on freshman Jamall Robinson’s three-pointer with just under 14 minutes to play. The Highlanders then went on an 18-9 run to pull within five, 57-52, with 6:17 remaining. Terrence Smith scored eight of the 18 points for NJIT in the run. After Nesmith put Hofstra of seven, 59-52, Lynn hit back-to-back three-pointers to pull NJIT within one at 59-58. But Nesmith answered with a three of his own to give Hofstra a four-point advantage and Robinson converted a pair of free throws to give the Pride a 64-58 lead with 3:41 to play.
The Highlanders got within three on a Willis three-point play with 3:28 to go before Upshaw made it a two possession game, 65-61, with one free throw with 3:16 to play. Nesmith made a pair of free throws with 2:11 to play to extend Hofstra’s lead to six, 67-61. The Pride would hit six more free throws and a field goal down the stretch and limited the Highlanders to just one three-pointer to account for the final score.
Freshman Chris Jenkins had 12 points off the bench, connecting on four of seven three-pointers, while Robinson had 11 points and a season-high eight rebounds for Hofstra.
Lynn was the only Highlander to score in double-figures with 20 points. Howard, Smith and Willis each chipped in with nine points apiece. Smith posted a team-high seven boards.
The contest marked the end of a two-game home stand for the Pride. Hofstra begins a stretch of three consecutive road games on New Year’s Day at Tulane. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m.