After close first half, Hofstra falls to No. 21 Duke


By Chris R. Vaccaro |

These games go one of two ways. Either Hofstra makes school history and upsets one of the best teams in the country or drops the game, holds its head high, enjoys the experience and uses it as a barometer check on their ability as one of the top mid-major schools in the country.

It was the latter for Hofstra, who lost to Duke, 89-68, on Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Just writing that Hofstra played at Cameron Indoor Stadium is a feat. This was the first time the Pride played the perennial power. Over the last few seasons, Hofstra has added formidable non-conference opponents like Purdue last season, Maryland in 2021, Richmond in 2020, and UCLA in 2019.

A historic 88-78 upset win for the Pride over the Bruins in Los Angeles a few years ago is enough to give you “what if” thoughts every time they travel into hostile basketball territory. With the game airing live on ESPN2 and the world betting against Hofstra, a reverse takedown of the Blue Devils would have been something. 

Instead, turnovers got the best of Hofstra. The Pride let up 31 points off turnovers, including 20 points in the second half.  

“We’re not used to playing against that size and athleticism on a daily basis,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “That’s what it boils down to. Whenever you give up that many points off your turnovers, it’s going to be hard to win a game.”

Hofstra head coach Speedy Claxton instructs his team from the sideline against the Duke during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Dec. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Duke big man Kyle Filipowski was the other x-factor, nearly scoring a triple-double with his 7-foot frame. He scored a game-high 28 points and had 12 rebounds and 8 assists. He’ll likely be in the NBA this time next year.

“He’s a massive nightmare out there,” said Claxton. “He can play inside and outside, and we’re hoping he’d have an off-night.”

Hofstra was led by Darlinstone Dubar, who had 24 points, while Tyler Thomas had 18 points, and Jacquan Carlos had 10. 

“I call them our big three,” said Claxton. “I’m proud of them. They came in here in a hostile environment, and they showed out. All three of them played well.”

Dubar was lethal in the first half, hitting five of his career-high seven three-point buckets. Hofstra led 37-32 late in the first half and for 6:06 before Duke went on a 10-2.

The game match-up and trip to Durham were possible thanks to Hofstra alum Mikaela Ryan, who works as the chief of staff of Duke men’s basketball. 

“I still have really close relationships with people in the Athletics Department at Hofstra, so we have always talked about how cool it would be,” Mikaela said in a Hofstra Magazine feature story. “I had passed along the request from Hofstra to play a non-conference game for a few years, but it never worked out scheduling-wise until this year.”

With Hofstra now 6-4 and a bulk of the schedule still ahead, the Pride is stacking up non-conference games and learning a lot about themselves in the process. Losing at Duke builds character.

Up next: Hofstra travels to UNLV on December 21 and hosts Rick Pitino’s St. Johns at UBS Arena on December 30 in two more “what if” games. 

Chris R. Vaccaro is a media executive and professor from Long Island. He teaches journalism and runs the graduate journalism program at Hofstra University, his alma mater.

Top: Hofstra’s Tyler Thomas (23) protects the ball from Duke’s Jeremy Roach (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

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