Harrisonburg, Va. – Down by one point in the waning moments,
junior guard Stevie Mejia hit the most clutch shot of the season for the Pride,
connecting on a lay-up with 6.1 seconds left
and hitting the foul shot to lift Hofstra to a dramatic 71-69 victory
over JMU in a Colonial Athletic Association matchup on Saturday afternoon at
the Convocation Center.
Senior forward Nathaniel Lester scored 17 of his team-high 23 points in the second half and drilled a key three-pointer with under a minute left to help Hofstra snap a six-game losing streak in improving to 7-13 on the season and 1-7 in CAA play. The win also evened the season series at one after JMU recorded a 62-60 victory at Hofstra on Dec. 6 on a late basket to break a tie.
“It’s a hard-fought win against a team that played us so
close,” Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara said. “I’m thrilled for Stevie to see
that knowing he’s been battling back from injuries this season. He made a big-time play and then made a
big-time free throw.”
Junior forward David Imes scored 14 points and added five rebounds and senior guard Mike Moore tallied 10 points and five rebounds. A.J. Davis scored a game-high 24 points for the Dukes but couldn’t get a last-second shot off before the buzzer. Humpty Hitchens scored 14 and Arman Marks also scored 14. JMU still fell to 9-10 and 2-6.
Hofstra has not lost at the Convocation Center since Feb. 1, 2003 but almost ended that streak thanks to Enoch Hood’s three-point play with 17 seconds left that put JMU ahead, 69-68. With no timeouts, Hofstra worked the ball quickly up-court and Mejia found an opening on the low left block to drive, creating contact on Hitchens while making the shot off the glass as Hofstra’s bench erupted.
The Pride elected to not run down the clock and instead go
for the lead despite JMU holding two timeouts.
“At that point, we just needed a basket,” Cassara said. “They went to a 1-3-1 (defense) and it was a look they didn’t use much before. We made clutch plays and I’m proud of our guys.”
Senior guard Dwan McMillan chalked up another jack-of-all-trades performance, logging four points, five assists and five rebounds. But when McMillan fouled out, Mejia took over and scored six of his eight points in the second half.
Hofstra built a 51-45 lead before JMU, which missed eight three-pointers in the opening half, used long-range shooting to tie the score. Hitchens and Marks drilled back-to-back three-pointers to even the score at 55. Following Marks’ left-angle trey, sophomore guard Shemiye McLendon hushed the crowd with a three-pointer near the top of the key.
Davis and Hutchins accounted for 38 of JMU’s point total with Davis going 8-for-13 from the field.
Lester also made a key three-pointer from the left wing, hitting the shot in front of Hofstra’s bench for a 68-66 Pride lead with 59 seconds left.
Hood looked to give JMU the lead for a good with a dunk and a three-point play for a 69-68 lead with 17.1 seconds left before Mejia’s late run.
Hofstra raced to another strong start, holding JMU nearly six minutes without a field goal in the early going en route to taking a 13-4 edge.
Imes set the Pride’s offensive tone, scoring six of the team’s first eight points. But Davis lifted JMU’s offense and the Dukes connected on three of their first seven three-pointers in a back-and-forth half that features three ties and three lead changes.
Imes scored 11 first half points and Lester tacked on six by hitting half of his field goal attempts. Imes set a season high with points in a single half, though Davis responded with 12 JMU points to cut Hofstra’s halftime lead to 30-29.
Cassara employed the
same starting lineup for the ninth straight game, going with Moore and McMillan
in the backcourt with Lester, Imes and Nwaukoni at the forward spots.
Hofstra will stay in Virginia to take on VCU on Monday with a 7 p.m. start from the Siegel Center. The Rams, who advanced to last season’s Final Four, won the series opener at Hofstra on Jan. 2. Fans can listen to the game through Pride Zone (log on through GoHofstra.com) as well as catching the action locally on SportsNet New York (SNY).