Hofstra rallies to beat Cougars

With about two minutes left in the first half, the College of Charleston was leading Hofstra by 14 points and appeared to be well on its way to another victory on the road.

In the year and a half that Charleston head coach Doug Wojcik has been with the program, the Cougars have won 14 times in 17 true road games.

Winning on the road for the Cougars has become the rule rather than the exception.

That was until Saturday afternoon.

In a game runs, Hofstra had their most important run when it mattered most.

Zeke Upshaw scored 22 points and Stephen Nwaukoni had 13 points and hauled down 15 rebounds to lead five players in double figures as Hofstra defeated the College of Charleston, 75-71, Saturday afternoon at Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, N.Y.

The Cougars, who had their four-game win streak snapped, dropped to 9-8 on the season and 1-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Pride improved to 5-11 and 1-1.

Had someone told Wojcik before the game that Charleston would score 71 points, make 11 3-pointers, all while shooting 44 percent from the floor, the veteran coach would have probably thought that the Cougars would have won for the 15th time on the road since the beginning of last season.

"I would have liked our chances," Wojcik said. "We did a lot of good things. We shot 44 percent from three, we have a positive assist (15) to turnover ratio (13) and we have seven steals. Normally that's good enough to win on the road, but it wasn't enough today."

The game, and ultimately the victory, came down to free throw shooting - too many opportunities for the Pride - especially in the second half. Hofstra attempted 48 free throws for the game, including 29 in the second half, and converted 32 times. Four Charleston players fouled out - Willis Hall, Adejhi Baru, Nori Johnson and Theo Johnson. All told, the Cougars were whistled for 31 fouls. They'd been averaging about 18 per game going into Saturday. The Cougars had 27 free throw attempts.

"Normally, you'd be pretty happy with 27 free throw attempts," Wojcik said. "They drove the ball on us and got us into foul trouble. I don't think I ever had four players foul out in one game."

The Pride also outrebounded the Cougars, 38-30. Hall, Baru and forward Anthony Thomas combined for just six defensive rebounds, while guard Anthony Stitt finished with a team-high nine rebounds and 11 overall.

"I can live with getting outrebounding," Wojcik said. "We knew coming in that they were a big, physical team."

Stitt finished with his first career double-double on 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

"Anthony Stitt played a heck of a game," Wojcik said. "He gets a double-double and nine of our 20 defensive rebounds amongst the rest of the guys on our team that combined for 11. He played great."

Hofstra jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first 1:46 as Nwaukoni hit a jumper and Upshaw contributed a four-point play as he was fouled on a made three-pointer.

But the Cougars responded with a 20-2 run to take a 20-8 lead with 10:06 left before halftime. Nori Johnson, who led the Cougars with a season-high 25 points, scored 11 of Charleston's 20 points in the run. Charleston would push its advantage to 34-28 with 2:26 to play on a free throw from Terrance O'Donohue.

But as the fouls began to mount for the Cougars, the Pride would finish on a 10-0 run to trail 38-34 at halftime.

Charleston opened the second half with an 11-5 run, hitting three consecutive three-pointers to take a 49-39 lead with 16:27 remaining on Johnson's sixth 3-pointer of the game. The Pride answered with a 9-0 run to pull within, 49-48, with 13:11 to go following a layup from Jordan Allen.

The two teams continued to trade baskets as the Cougars grabbed the lead again, 65-63, on Hall's jumper with 3:45 to go.

Hofstra would take the lead for good, 66-65, on a free throw from Nwaukoni with 1:17 to play. It was Hofstra's first lead since early in the game.

Three times the Pride missed free throws and three times they came up with the loose ball and were fouled. They eventually pushed their lead to 69-65 with 1:16 to play on Nwaukoni's two free throws.

Stitt nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 69-68 with 58 seconds to play, only to have Upshaw answer with a driving layup to put Hofstra back up, 71-68, with 29 seconds left.

Nwaukoni would hit two more free throws to make it a 73-68 game, but Johnson responded with his seventh 3-pointer of the game to pull the Cougars back within 73-71 with 14 seconds to go.

"Nori was just incredible," Wojcik said. "He's making shots and even the one late that pulls us within two. It was an incredible shot. He continues to shoot the ball very well."

The Cougars had a chance to tie the game with less than 20 seconds to play, but Joe Chealey and Stitt failed to convert on 3-point attempts.

"It's a tough loss because we did a lot of positive things," Wojcik said.

The Cougars will take on Northeastern at 7 p.m. Monday.