Hempstead, NY - Hofstra used a 17-0 run early in the second half to take control of a close game and made all 10 of its free throws in the final two minutes to squash a late rally by William & Mary in a 77-60 Colonial Athletic Association win at the Mack Sports Complex Wednesday night.
Hofstra (7-12, 3-1 CAA), which won for the third time in four games, received a game-high 21 points from graduate forward Zeke Upshaw, who entered the night averaging 19.1 points per game. Graduate guard Dion Nesmith had 15 points and a career-best 10 assists, while senior forward Stephen Nwaukoni added 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. The win was Hofstra’s third consecutive CAA victory, its longest since the 2010-11 season and the 3-1 start in conference play is Hofstra’s best since the 2010-11 team won five straight to begin league action.
William & Mary, which lost for just the second time in its last six contests, slipped to 10-7 overall and 2-2 in the CAA with the loss.
Hofstra led, 34-33, at the half following a hot-shooting first half that saw the Pride connect of 50-percent of their shots from the field, including five of 10 three-pointers. Upshaw led the way for the Pride with 11 points in the opening 20 minutes, while Nesmith had nine points and five assists in the opening half.
The Tribe opened up their largest lead of the first half, 13-9, at with 12:35 to go on a layup from Sean Sheldon that capped off a 5-1 run. Upshaw then scored five straight points for the Pride to put the Pride back up, 14-13 with 11:58 to play. The teams would trade leads before Julian Boatner tied the game at 18 with a three-pointer with 9:45 to go. The Pride broke the tie on consecutive three-pointers from Nesmith and freshman guard Chris Jenkins to take their largest lead, 24-18, with 8:16 to play. The Tribe would get within one, 26-25, with 5:13 to go before the Pride built the lead back up to six on a basket from and a free throw and basket from sophomore forward Jordan Allen. But back-to-back threes from Marcus Thornton and Boatner tied the score at 31 with 1:32 to play.
Following a Hofstra timeout, Nesmith drained his second three-pointer to give Hofstra a 34-31 lead with 1:08 on the clock. A dunk from William & Mary’s Kyle Gaillard on an inbound play made it 34-33 and neither team would score on their final possessions of the half.
William and Mary took the lead on the opening possession of the second half as Tim Rusthoven scored on a layup 20 seconds in. But a basket from Upshaw and a three-pointer from Nesmith put Hofstra up four, 39-35, with 18:37 to play. Rusthoven would score two more baskets, sandwiched around a three-point play from junior forward Moussa Kone, that made the score 42-39 in Hofstra’s favor. From there the Pride took control with a 17-0 run over the next 5:19 that made the score 59-39 with 11:16 to play. Five different players scored for Hofstra during the run led by Upshaw’s six points. The Pride also drilled four three-pointers during the spurt.
Rusthoven would score his (and William & Mary’s) eighth point of the half to stop the scoreless drought with 10:52 to play. The Pride would extend the lead to as much as 23, 64-41, with 7:37 to play on an Upshaw jumper. William & Mary would then go on a 16-3 run to get the game back within 10, 67-57, with 2:37 to go on a Thornton jumper. The junior guard would score nine of the Tribe’s 16 points in the run. But Hofstra would hit all 10 of its free throws in the final two minutes to seal the win.
Thornton would lead the Tribe with 17 points and five assists, while Rusthoven added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Hofstra made 19-25 free throws in the contest and its 76 percent shooting from the line was a season high. In addition to his 21 points, Upshaw added eight rebounds.
Hofstra is back in action Saturday at 4 p.m. versus Northeastern. Tickets are available by calling (516) HOF-TIXX or online at GoHofstra.com/tix.