Hofstra edges out Rick Pitino and Iona in 83-78 battle in college basketball

Hofstra basketball beats Iona
AP Photos

Rick Pitino is considered one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. So when the coach comes away mightily impressed with a Hofstra Pride program, you better believe it comes from an excellent source. 

Tyler Thomas scored a game-high 26 points and Darlinstone Dunbar threw in an extra 22 and the Hofstra Pride knocked off Pitino’s Iona Gaels 83-78 Friday night. 

“It was overall a great team effort. We battled all game, everyone stepped up. I’m really proud of our guys. (Aaron Estrada) had an off night and we needed other guys to step up and they did.” Pride coach Speedy Claxton told reporters after the game. 

The Hofstra Alum has led his team to a 2-0 start with the win and came out firing to start the game. Even with reigning CAA Player of the Year Aaron Estrada totaling just two points in the first half, Hofstra jumped out to a 43-40 halftime lead on the shoulders of Dunbar and Thomas. 

“I gotta give all the credit to Hofstra.” Rick Pitino said after the game. “They made one big shot after the other. A really good college basketball game…They are a terrific team. Speedy does a tremendous job with his guys.”

Pitino’s squad would come out with a strong second half and cut the lead to just one point late. A flurry of 7-0 runs kept the Gaels in the game and Hofstra looking for answers. Estrada did tally eight points in the second half, but his 3-10 shooting night was compounded by a Gaels defense that was focused on shutting down Hofstra’s best offensive player.

Yet a five-minute scoring drought wasn’t enough to keep the Hofstra home crowd down, nor its players. Thomas hit a clutch three to take the lead late, and a set of free throws iced the Gaels and sent the Pride to their first 2-0 start to a season since the 2017-18 season. 

Tyler Thomas would finish what he started in the first half with a clutch three to tally a game-high 26  points and give the Pride a 79-76 lead. The Pride would hit their free throws down the stretch to move to win their home opener and move forward with a future date with George Washington on Monday.

“We gotta enjoy this one tonight and still get to work on George Washington tomorrow.” Claxton later said. 

Game Notes

  • Friday night’s contest was the 45th game between Iona and Hofstra with the Gaels holding a now 22-21 advantage. 
  • Iona is coming off a MAAC regular season championship but did not qualify for the NCAA after losing to Rider in the quarterfinal of the MAAC tournament. Hofstra, on the other hand, lost in the quarterfinal round of the CAA tournament in Speedy Claxton’s first season as head coach. 
  • Rick Pitino gave a lot of credit to the Pride faithful but was also very critical of his team. Citing a lack of a bench and poor perimeter defenders, the long-time coach was adamant that more losses were on the horizon with schools like Vermont, SMU, and Santa Clara on the horizon. 

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