Win Streak Over, CofC Fall to Hofstra 85-81
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
Saturday afternoon at TD Arena the visiting Pride of Hofstra University were hoping to do what no other team has done since November 11th of last year. After falling 102-86 to the then top ranked Tar Heels of UNC, the College of Charleston had gone a 20 game winning streak, and at 21-1 overall are the winningest team in men’s college basketball. Coming to Charleston with a decent 14-8 record including a 7-2 CAA record, did the Pride have enough to take down the high flying Cougars, who entered Saturday’s contest undefeated in conference play.
The matchup would be the 18th meeting between the two programs with Hofstra holding a slight 9-8 advantage. However, CofC did win their last head to head contest, taking down the Pride 92-76 on their home court dating back to last season. After a week off would CofC carry the same energy, or would Hofstra have enough to mount payback from the prior meeting.
Before another sold out crowd at TD Arena and 40 high intensity minutes Charleston came up short, falling 85-81 to the Pride, putting and end to the Cougars 20 game win streak, while suffering their first loss at home this season.
Although Charleston had a week to prepare for Hofstra, the Pride brought a whole lot of intensity and determination into the contest. One of the most consistent threats and the top scorer in the CAA, the Pride’s Aaron Estrada finished with a game best 25 points, racking up 23 before the half. In all of his 40 minutes on the floor, the sure shooting guard went 9 of 22 from the field adding 5 of Hofstra’s 11 from long range.
Although they scored 81 points, what did the 18th ranked Cougars in was poor shooting from beyond the arc. Normally a solid 3-point shooting team all season, Charleston ended making just 5 of 31 for 16 percent. Two or three more treys would have made the difference. Ante Brzovic who got off to a quick start with two early layups and slam dunk to provide CofC a two point advantage at the break, lead the Cougars with 18 points.
CofC Head Coach Pat Kelsey said it had less to do with the team’s offense rather than it did on defense. “We couldn’t get a stop. They got some huge crucial second shots on 50-50 balls.” Although they shot 77 percent (24 of 31) from the charity stripe Kelsey added the Cougars came up short at the line. “We missed some opportunities at the free throw line too.”
Less than 90 seconds into the contest the Cougars jumped out 6-0, only to allow the Pride to even it up at the four minute mark on a couple of free throws by Jaquan Carlos. A fast break away lay up by Reyne Smith put the Cougars up by eight (28-20) with just over seven minutes on the clock.
But Hofstra was relentless, getting behind a 14-5 run capped off by a misile by Estrada that provided the visitors their first lead of the contest, up 34-33 with 4:27 left in the first period. The lead would change hands several times before Brzovic capped off the first half with a slam dunk, sending Charleston into the locker room up 46-44 at intermission.
While the first 20 minutes was an all out battle, the second 20 minutes was more like a war between two of the best teams in the CAA. Despite back to back long balls by Smith and Brzovic early in the second period Hofstra was able to regain the lead, going up by four (60-56) five minutes in.
At the midway mark a short jumper by Carlos gave the Pride their biggest lead (70-63) of the afternoon, with CofC faithful on the edge of their seats chanting ‘lets go Cougars!’. When Brzovic scored a layup with 3:29 remaining the Cougars trailed by just two points (79-77).
But Hofstra would not let up. The teams traded baskets and missed attempts in the final minutes with Smith dropping a couple of free throws at the 13 second mark to bring the 18th ranked over the 80 point margin, closing the contest within four points.
Besides Estrada’s 25 points, Darlinstone Dubar went 8 of 11 adding 18 points for Hofstra. Tyler Thomas and Carlos chipped in 17 and 15 respectively for the Pride. Hofstra improve to 15-8 on the season and 8-2 in the league.
Charleston had three other players finish in double figures Ryan Larson ended with 15 points, with Smith and Pat Robinson III adding 11 points apiece. Dalton Bolon who is usually reliable from downtown, went 0-6 from 3-point land. With the loss the Cougars fall to 21-2 overall and 9-1 in the CAA.
Although he admitted he hates to lose, after enjoying some family and friend time on Sunday and watching the Cincinnati Bengals play with his son, Coach Kelsey said it would be business as normal on Monday. “We’ll do what we always do, with a lot of heart and intensity, and that is prepare for the next game.”
The Cougars hit the road for the next two games. Charleston will travel to Drexel to take on the Dragons on Thursday, February 2. Action is set for 7:00 p.m. in Philadelphia. Fans can watch on FloSports or listen to all the action with their radio partner 910 AM.
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