“Cash money,” that’s all that went through sophomore guard Yolonzo Moore II’s mind at the free throw line with 27 seconds left Saturday in a game against Holy Cross, holding a narrow lead.
“All I say is ‘cash money’ in my mind and I know it will go win,” said Moore II as he hit two free throws with less than a half minute left in the game to put the Hawks up by two possessions and they won the game 48-45 to improve to 4-3 on the season.
Moore II had a busy game as his final line consisted of 10 points, seven rebounds, three rebounds and five steal, while playing a team high 33 minutes.
The 4-3 start is the best start to a season they’ve had under third year head coach John Gallagher, who knew his team won an ugly game that they could have very well lost.
“We’re the 321youngest team in the nation out of 340, so for us to be 321 and be at this stage, we’re a year ahead of schedule but we still have a ton of work to do,” said Gallagher.
It was a tale of two halves as Hartford stepped up their offensive efficiency and tightened up their defense to hold Holy Cross (4-4) to 2-17 (11.8 percent) from behind the three-point arc as they trailed 22-20 after the first half.
“[Gallagher] told us out of the half to go hard for the first four minutes, that allowed us to go up 12 points, and once we got up, that was our momentum boost,” said Moore II as the Hawks came out of the second half down 22-20 on a fast 22-8 run that gave them a 14-point lead with eight minutes remaining in the game.
A healthy dose of Wes Cole, Mark Nwakamma and Moore II gave the Hawks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as an up-tempo offense lead to penetration of the paint and easy buckets for the Hawks.
The most explosive play of the game came with four minutes left to go when Nwakamma took a pass in the lane and bulldozed his way through traffic in the paint to power down a two-handed dunk over Holy Cross defenders, sending the crowd into a roar and getting the bench off their seats.
The offense clicked on all cylinders as they rebounded from shooting 24 percent from the field in the first half to 40 percent in the second half, with their shot decisions changing the pace of the game.
“[Holy Cross] is one of the best teams in the nation at defending the three-point line, we knew that coming into the game so we had to make some adjustments offensively, but we made some big shots down the stretch,” said Gallagher.
Hartford is one of the better three-point shooting teams in the nation, but were held to 7-30 behind the arc (23 percent), not a bad percentage, but considering it was against one of the best defensive teams in the nation, they’ll take it.
Hartford struggled to score from the inside in the first half as Holy Cross aimed to take away the paint from the Hawks by using their big men to dominate on both sides of the ball.
Big man, Dave Dudzinski was the strongest force for Holy Cross as he had 13 points and 15 rebounds in the game, using his large frame to his advantage to bully the undersized Hawks’ interior all game. Hartford was out rebounded in the game by 15 and that isn’t a recipe for success, but Gallagher said he can live with the win.
“If you would tell me before the game started that we’d get beat that badly on the boards and still win the game, I’d find it hard to believe, but our guys gave it their all and I’m not going to give this win back,” said Gallagher.