Stony Brook and Hofstra are both having success, in the process the two Long Island schools have switched identities.
When four Hofstra players were arrested the team went into a free fall losing eight straight games. It understandably took head coach Mo Cassara and his staff a bit of time to adjust as almost half their rotation was suspended. A seven-game losing streak carried throughout non-conference play.
But as the calendar flipped to CAA play and the Pride returned home something happened. Hofstra is 2-1 in league play with both of their wins coming at the Mack Sports Complex. The one loss was on the road at Delaware by 15 points.
“We’ve continued to adjust and adapt the offense and the defense,” Cassara said. “We’re still moving thing around.”
Cassara adjusted his team to help the remaining pieces fit better. The offense now centers around guards Taran Buie and Stevie Mejia. It’s also much more deliberate. The Pride are averaging 57.9 possessions per game during their three leagues games, which ranks 11th in the CAA. But more than helping get good shots, it’s protecting key players and helping guys like Buie and Mejia stay on the court. Mejia has played 113 of 120 possible minutes during the past three games. He scored 17 points in a win over Georgia State and also scored 14 in the win against William & Mary.
“We’ve had to change the way we play a little bit,” Cassara said about transforming from a running and pressing team to the more deliberate attack. “We’re really trying to focus on getting a good shot. The focus is on good shots in the half court offense and defense. We need to protect guys who are playing 30-35 minutes per game.”
Hofstra has also managed to expand the rotation thanks to the play of Jordan Allen. The redshirt freshman is Hofstra’s most efficient scorer and also a versatile defender who at 6’6″ can play almost anywhere on the court. Since the December 1 game against Southern Methodist, Allen has played at least 20 minutes per game. He got into foul trouble against Delaware, but played 32 minutes in both of Hofstra’s league victories.
“He’s stepped up incredibly,” Cassara said about Allen. “He doesn’t need the ball to be successful. He’s been an opportunistic scorer, a good defender and a willing passer… He was forced into something maybe he wasn’t prepared for this season and he’s done a good job working hard on the court and getting better.”
Another player that has stepped up lately is Daquan Brown, who became eligible at the end of first semester. He’s raw, but provides another big body in the post. Brown made his first big contribution against Delaware with 13 points. Now he and Hofstra head up to Boston to take on undefeated conference foe Northeastern on Wednesday night (also coincidentally the fastest team in the conference), but the CAA looks like it will be wide open all season. The recent wins have given the Pride confidence that they can continue improving and hopefully make some noise in the race.
“It’s helped on the floor. It’s helped in the locker room. And it’s helped in the game prep,” Cassara said about getting a few wins. “Players are more confident now and believe in what we’re doing.”
Across Long Island, another team that’s playing with a ton of confidence is Stony Brook. After a 75-48 home win over Boston University on Tuesday night the America East looks to be the Seawolves’ to lose. They’ve dominated in every league game they’ve played this season, winning by an average of 20.5 points per game. While that does include one game against Binghamton, it also includes games against BU and Hartford. Stony Brook has the talent to hang with Big East and ACC schools and now they’re unleashing a furry on America East. Tommy Brenton has picked up his scoring pace and the entire team is playing quicker.
After the Manhattan game Steve Pikiell said that he’s confident playing at a faster tempo with this team and it’s obvious why. SBU has a deep, talented roster. Getting all of them possessions and minutes requires pushing the tempo a bit more. In their past two games Stony Brook has played at a brisk 69 and 70-possession pace. It’s certainly worked. Sure the first wave is good, but guys like Marcus Rouse, Leonard Hayes, Anthony Mayo, Scott King and Ron Bracey, all of whom come off SBU’s bench, are also quality players. It’s a second unit that has the potential to deliver back-breaking runs.
It’s a fun, entertaining style that’s played well to two packed crowds at Pritchard Gym already this season. The excitement is back on Long Island.