WASHINGTON -- Senior guard Eli Pemberton scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half and Hofstra came from behind to beat Northeastern 70-61 Tuesday night to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001.
Back then, two-time national-champion coach Jay Wright was patrolling the sideline for Hofstra, before leaving for Villanova. Hofstra was in the America East Conference and the school had just changed its nickname from the Flying Dutchmen to the Pride.
Nearly two decades later, it's coach Joe Mihalich's turn, as he will return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007, when he was at Niagara. Players sprayed Mihalich with water after receiving the CAA trophy. The top-seeded Pride improved to 26-8 en route to securing their first CAA title since joining the league in 2001.
"I knew that I always wanted to be there," Pemberton said. "And I'm glad that I'm going to be there with my brothers."
Hofstra trailed at halftime and used a 17-4 run to pull away. The Pride held conference leading scorer Jordan Roland to 11 points. Maxime Boursiquot led Northeastern, which won the CAA last season, with 15 points and nine rebounds.
"It is something to be proud of because we beat a bunch of champions," Mihalich said. "The championship goes through them. They are the defending champions, so to win the championship, you've got to knock out the champ.''
Hofstra was nearly unstoppable during tournament play and delivered an 18-point drubbing of Drexel in the quarterfinals. The Pride scored another double-digit victory against Delaware in the semifinals when they didn't miss a shot for the game's first five minutes.
The Pride are expected to be a No. 13 or 14 seed in the NCAA tournament and a big underdog in the first round. Wright's 2001 team lost to UCLA 61-48 in the first round.
"Growing up, that is always what I wanted to do, sitting at the TV and watching those games,'' Buie said "You dream of this as a kid."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.