By Ryan McCord
The Worldwide Leader in Sports, better known as ESPN, dubbed its coverage of college basketball during Thanksgiving holiday time as "feast week."
For the Hofstra women's basketball team, that label could not be more fitting. After coming off what was perhaps the most heralded win in program history at No. 17 Michigan State, the Pride just needed one more victory on Sunday to become worthy candidates as "Beasts of Feast Week."
It was already a holiday break the team will remember forever, but Pride head coach Krista-Kilburn Stevesky's team hardly forgot its next opponent, and any possibilities of a lackadaisical effort against a lowly Rider team were put to rest due to the impressive play of Hofstra's bench in an 85-52 floor-mopping victory.
"I was more nervous today than I have been in a while because you just don't want any letdowns," said Kilburn-Steveskey, whose team was going up against a program that has just won three of its last 29 games. "You see it all over ESPN, stuff like that happens. We took care of business and on a quest to prove that we're for real."
Six and a half minutes into the game, freshman guard Samantha Brigham (14 points) knocked down a three point field goal in what turned out to be the first of 23 first half bench points for the Pride, which ironically, turned out to be the equivalent number in their first half lead of 48-25.
"As soon as I hit the first one, we were swinging it and getting their defense out of synch and I was hitting them," Brigham said. "I had my rhythm today."
Teamed with Brigham's sharp shooting, Pride sophomore guards Natty Fripp and Niki Williams kept their seats on the bench cold, proving to be integral parts in cranking up the speed of the game and leaving the Broncs helpless and running out of gas defensively.
Brigham credited her handful of open looks to all the attention Vanessa Gidden was receiving underneath the hoop against a Rider team lacking in overall height.
"That was our focal point before the game, to not let Hofstra reverse the ball and we let them do it over and over," Rider head coach Tori Harrison said.
Hofstra not only shot better than 51 percent from the floor in the deciding first half, but out-rebounded the Broncs by 17 to go along with a season-low 13 turnovers. Despite the impressive numbers throughout the team's box score, Gidden acknowledged that you haven't seen the best of the Pride on a 1-10 scale.
"Seven or eight," said Gidden, who led the Pride with 16 points and tied for the team lead with nine rebounds. "We liked the fact that we got a win today. We need to punch it through in the first five minutes. Everything we do is about accomplishing our goals."
About the only goal that Rider accomplished was shutting down the Pride's most productive guard, senior Cigi McCollin. McCollin shot just 1-for-8 from the floor after her inspiring 24-point effort in the monumental win over Michigan State.
Luckily for Hofstra, Brigham picked up where McCollin left off against MSU, and her first basket proved to be a sign of things to come after an opening five minute stretch when it looked like the Broncs give the Pride all it could handle.
"Sam's our spark," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "It happens in practice, we have some little lulls in shooting and it becomes a microcosm of the game. When you're high and making those shots it spreads like wildfire. On the flip of that, it happened at Baylor, you miss the 'gimmies' and you get deflated. We're learning how to stop those things."
After using the preseason to fill holes and stretch their legs, the Pride will ring in the CAA conference opener on Sunday afternoon at home against a Georgia State squad looking to get back to the .500 mark.
"That's what it's all about," said Kilburn-Steveskey in referring to the start of conference play. ""That's what it's all about," said Kilburn-Steveskey in referring to the start of conference play. "We must get better defensively. It's not our identity yet but we want it to be eventually."