Hofstra picks up a marquee win over Arkansas in Little Rock
On day one of the season, Hofstra pushed a 2021 Final Four team to overtime on the road. A week later, they nearly willed their way back against a really good Iona team on the road. Three days later, they lost a heartbreaker to a Maryland team that had serious preseason hype, once again, on the road. Then, they blew a 14 point lead to a good Richmond team on the road. The Pride were one of the best 1–4 teams out there, but they struggled to close games, but they got another huge opportunity last night.
Nearly a month after falling to 1–4, Hofstra had won 5 of their next 6 games coming into their next big test, a game in Little Rock against 9–1 Arkansas. The key for Hofstra is their offense getting going, and they got going in half number one. Jalen Ray sunk 2 threes and former Arkansas Razorback Abayomi Iyiola had 9 points and 8 rebounds in the first half alone. The Pride hit 5 threes and grabbed 23 rebounds in the first half, leading to a 40 point half against a solid Arkansas defense.
With an 8 point halftime lead, Hofstra maintained their edge by gaining the foul advantage Aaron Estrada and Jalen Ray combined for 12–12 from the line, which proved to be one of the major differences in the game. While Arkansas shot 9–17 on three-pointers in the second half, they only attempted four free throws. Chris Lykes (19 points), JD Notae (20 points), and Davonte Davis (9 points, 4 assists) all fouled out of the game for the Hogs. Hofstra shot 20–23 from the foul line, outrebounded Arkansas 40–33, and protected their leads, these were the key factors in their win.
For Arkansas, it brings a time of reckoning, for they’ve now lost two consecutive games after their 9–0 start, allowing 88 and 89 points in those two. They play fast, and they live with the consequences of it, and that won’t change, but three-point defense must improve, or else they won’t make it far in March.
Coach Eric Musselman said, “In seven years of coaching college this is the most disappointed I’ve been about how we played,” and he knew exactly what was wrong. “We’ve been searching for point guard play,” Musselman said. “Now we’re searching for shooting. Rebounding has been a strength. Tonight we lose on the glass by seven. So again we’ve got to get a lot better.”
He also mentioned how his former player, Iyiola, dominated the game, with 18 points and 14 rebounds in just 29 minutes.
The next Razorback game is Tuesday against Elon, then they have an eight-day break before conference play starts.
Hofstra’s flight to Little Rock was actually canceled in Washington D.C. the night before the game, but the team was able to fly in the morning of, and as Coach Speedy Claxton said, “We really had to kind of just go play on the fly,”
For Hofstra, these are the wins that define seasons, but they're not done yet. Before conference play begins, the Pride face a really good Monmouth team on the road. It’s going to come down to the CAA Tournament as to whether Hofstra goes dancing this year, but if they do, expect them to potentially cause some havoc.
Hofstra’s first win against a ranked opponent since 1976 comes in a season where the Pride have had multiple close calls already in their quest to make their first NCAA Tournament since the Jay Wright era, 2 decades ago.