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Hofstra shows promise in tough non-conference

The Hofstra Pride is .500 through its first 10 games but has shown a lot of potential. It fell in overtime at No. 15 Houston and lost to No. 20 Maryland by two on the road. The Pride picked up wins over Duquesne, Princeton and Bucknell.

Speedy Claxton
Speedy Claxton is building on the success of the Hofstra Pride in his first year at the helm of the program.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

While it’s been a tough road through the non-conference portion of the season, the Hofstra Pride has shown resiliency and a capability to compete at a high level against some of the top teams in the country.

Having received just one first-place vote in the CAA’s preseason poll, Hofstra is putting the conference on notice with a string of solid performances. While their 5-5 record might not show the Pride’s strengths, this is a team that has all the pieces to be a CAA contender under a highly-touted young coach in Speedy Claxton.

After putting together an illustrious career for Hofstra and being selected in the first round of the 2000 NBA Draft, the program’s career leader in assists and steals, Claxton took over as the head coach this past April.

He initially joined the staff when Joe Mihalich was hired in 2013. Beginning as a special assistant to Mihalich, Claxton was promoted to assistant coach in 2014.

Mihalich took a leave of absence for the 2020-21 season before officially stepping down, leaving Mike Farrelly to serve as acting head coach for the season.

Taking over as the 13th head coach in program history, Claxton has not only continued the recent success that Mihalich had, but has built on it thanks to an exciting group of transfers with a mix of veterans.

Hofstra opened the season by taking No. 15 Houston to overtime at the Fertitta Center in an 83-75 loss. The Pride were led by 26 points from dynamic guard Zach Cooks, a graduate student who joined prior to this season from NJIT.

They followed that up with a win over Duquesne and a tough 82-74 loss to Rick Pitino’s excellent Iona squad.

At 1-2, Hofstra faced No. 20 Maryland on the road and took the Terps to the brink. With the game tied at 67, senior guard Omar Silverio had his last-second shot from three blocked and forced a foul, which cost Hofstra the game 69-67.

While Claxton’s squad was unlucky not to prevail, another strong performance against a ranked opponent has shown what Hofstra can do and how good this team could potentially be in the CAA this season.

The Pride finished its November road trip with a loss to the Richmond Spiders, who were ranked 2nd in the Atlantic-10’s preseason poll. Hofstra returned home to Long Island and won four straight with victories over Molloy, Detroit Mercy, Bucknell, and Princeton.

The winning streak came to an end with a 79-62 loss to local rival Stony Brook, the America East preseason favorite. It was a tough shooting night as the Pride went 5-for-26 (19%) from 3-point land. Senior guard Jalen Ray shot 1-of-11 from the field, and Cooks was 0-for-5 from deep, Hofstra is set to face Division III foe John Jay in its next game.

With CAA conference play scheduled to begin at the end of December, Hofstra rounds out its non-conference schedule with a matchup against its third nationally-ranked opponent in No. 12 Arkansas on Dec. 18 and against Monmouth, who is currently 7-1, on Dec. 22.