Hempstead, NY -- Senior forward Nathaniel Lester scored a career-high 33 points and fellow senior Mike Moore added 23 points to lead Hofstra to a season-opening 89-71 win over Long Island University on Friday night in front of 3,589 at the Mack Sports Complex.
Junior forward David Imes added 10 points and seven rebounds to give the Pride three players in double figures. Hofstra shot 59.2 percent from the field, racking up 57 points in the second half against a LIU squad coming off a 27-win season and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010-11. The Blackbirds fell to 0-1.
Senior guard Dwan McMillan also reached a personal milestone, racking up a career-high 10 assists coming off the bench.
Lester shot 9-of-15 from the field and converted 12 of his 14 free throw attempts. The Brooklyn native enjoyed a career-best day despite playing his first official game in over a year. Lester took a medical red-shirt last season but torched the Blackbirds for 17 first-half points in his first game back.
Lester's previous high was a 22-point effort versus JMU on Feb. 18, 2009. The forward also tied a career-high with a trio of three-pointers and became the first Hofstra player besides Charles Jenkins to register a 30-point game in the last four seasons.
Moore recorded his sixth career 20-point game, shooting 7-of-9 from the field. With Moore manning the shooting guard position while also functioning as a small forward, junior Stevie Mejia teamed with McMillian to run the point. Mejia (a transfer from Rhode Island) scored seven points and compiled four assists in his Hofstra debut.
Hofstra got off to a sluggish start, going down 7-2 through the first 3:27. A back-and-forth opening half ended with Hofstra taking a 32-30 lead at halftime.
The Blackbirds tied the score at 32 just 52 seconds into the second half. But Hofstra surged past LIU, going on a 51-25 run over the next 16 minutes for an 83-57 edge .
That run came against a LIU squad that won the NEC championship last year and entered the new campaign as the favorites to repeat. In the first of five games against opponents that qualified for the NCAA tournament last season, Hofstra found a rhythm on the perimeter, shooting 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
With Hofstra nursing a two-point lead following C.J. Garner's layup to make it 37-35, Moore hit two three-pointers around two LIU free throws for a 43-36 lead. Moore then drove the lane, drew a foul and hit both free throw attempts to give the Pride a nine-point advantage at 14:20.
Moore capped his strong game with his third three-pointer of the second half, making it 58-50 with 9:12 to play to cap an 18-3 run and galvanize the home crowd.
With upperclassmen Lester, Moore, Imes and McMillan leading the way, Head Coach Mo Cassara's team also saw freshman Moussa Kone step up in his college debut. The Bronx native scored six points, grab two rebounds and add one steal in 16 minutes. Kone also brought the student section to its feet with an emphatic dunk to make it 76-53.
Hofstra will look to take momentum across the country when the Pride opposes Oregon State on Wednesday with a 10 p.m. tipoff local time.