It was a solid effort for the Pride on Opening Night for the 2014-2015 season who looked far removed from the 10-23 team from last year. Led by a brand new cast of characters, Hofstra came out of the locker room with electrifying energy on both ends of the floor.
On offense, Hofstra looked in sync and free-flowing, finding open teammates on the three-point line and taking it strong into the paint. Brian Bernardi, a transfer from Southern Methodist University, was lights out on the floor, draining his first five shots and six three-pointers overall for a total of 22 points. Fellow newcomers Ameen Tanksley (transfer from Niagara), Malik Nichols (junior college), and Juan'ya Green (transfer from Niagara) each chipped in 16, 15, and 14 points respectively. In addition to scoring, Green did a tremendous job at the point for his new team, controlling the tempo very well and dishing off nine assists to zero turnovers.
Hofstra had its will on the defensive end as well, where it held Jacksonville to 33.3% shooting from the field. The Pride did an excellent job of keeping the pressure on the Dolphins and utilized a full-court press early and often to drive panic into the hearts of the Jacksonville players. This led to a lot of sloppy play and rushed shots from the Dolphins, resulting in 11 turnovers and poor shooting percentage. Kori Babineaux led Jacksonville with 13 points on 11 field goal attempts.
Rokas Gustys and Andre Walker are looking like promising recruits for the Pride, as the big men combined for 21 rebounds and six blocks on the night. While Walker mostly saw his minutes in garbage time when the game was well past decided, he looked like a dominant force in the paint with confidence and poise not commonly seen in a freshman. Gustys saw a lot more time early in the game and actually started on the floor for the second half due to his effort on defense and on the boards. Neither player did a whole lot of scoring (only four points for each) but they didn't appear to be a large part of the offensive attack plan anyway.
There is clearly much room for improvement for the Dolphins, whose sloppy play and lack of size was a huge detriment to their play tonight. Many of the turnovers were avoidable if the team was able to communicate better and as the night wore on the players appeared to become rattled by their inability to get anything going. To some extent, these growing pains are to be expected of a team as young as Jacksonville, who lack a senior in the lineup rotation. Hopefully their competition against Non-Division-I opponent Florida National on Sunday will provide some confidence for this squad.
The road only gets more challenging for Hofstra, who will put its moves to the test on the road against North Carolina State on Monday. That will be a crucial game for the Pride in determining who they are this season and what kind of success they can find with their new talent.