By Max Sass, Assistant Sports Editor
Going into the WBCA Classic in Storrs, Connecticut last weekend the Hofstra women's basketball team knew they had a daunting task in front of them. Finally stepping out onto the court against the Connecticut Huskies, one of the most dominating college basketball teams of recent history (43 consecutive victories and counting) showed them it may have been even more daunting than they expected.
The Huskies, featuring returning Player of the Year Maya Moore, along with fellow first team preseason All – American Tina Charles. Geno Auriemma, who recorded his 700th career coaching victory in the win over the Pride, coaches the Huskies. The closest the Pride came was just a few minutes into the game, they trailed 8 – 7. Connecticut then went on a 12 – 0 run and the Pride could not close the gap.
"You want to play the best, you want to see the little things they do to make themselves so good," said Pride head coach Krista Kilburn – Steveskey. Intermission could not come soon enough for the Pride, as they trailed by 20, 43 – 23 at the half. Moore and crew came out charging scoring eight of the first 10 points of the second half reaffirming their dominance. The game ended with a final score of 91 – 46, as the Huskies were led by Moore with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Charles chipped in 17 and 8.
The Pride were lead in a losing effort by sophomore guard Nicole Capurso who notched nine points and senior center Jess Fuller who was able to only score seven points, but did block three shots in the game. "You just don't know how good they really are, until you get on the floor with them and look up and you are down by 30," said Kilburn – Steveskey.
The tournament provided no rest for the weary as the Pride followed up the beating from UConn with a game against Clemson. The matchup against the ACC power proved to be a heart stopper for the fans in attendance and a heartbreaker for the Pride.
Senior guard Sam Brigham led the Pride in her home state with 17 points and seven boards and fellow senior Fuller contributed a well rounded line of 14 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. That combo was not quite enough though for the Pride as they dropped their second game of the tournament.
The Pride led 61 – 54 with just over five minutes remaining, but let the Tigers back in the game thanks to some shoddy free throw shooting and turnovers. Clemson went on an 11 – 0 run over a span of 3:33 to take the lead 65 – 61. Five straight Capurso points gave the Pride a one point lead with 40 seconds on the clock. Clemson responded, taking their own one point lead with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
Redshirt Sophomore Candice Bellocchio gave her cardiac crew a lead once again with only 13 second remaining, but committed a foul with the clock down to just 4 ticks that send Clemson to the charity stripe down one. The Tigers knocked down both shots and left with a 69 – 68 victory.
Next up for the Pride after two demoralizing losses was Richmond. The fourth game in a span of five days for both teams, the Spiders dominated the Pride in the first half, leading by 18 points at the break.
Hofstra's resiliency shined through in the second half as they fought back to lead 41 – 37 with about two minutes remaining. A Richmond three pointer narrowed the lead to one. Freshman guard Candace Bond had a chance to deliver a signature moment, just six games into her career as she was fouled with 20 seconds to go in the game and had two free throws with her team up just one.
"I felt real confident with my freshmen," said Kilburn – Steveskey. "I wouldn't have them [Bond or fellow freshman Shante Evans] on the floor if I didn't think they could be out there." Unfortunately for the Pride, their coach's confidence was not enough to will either of Bond's two free throws into the basket and left Richmond with an opportunity to win in the last moments.
The Spiders took full advantage of their chance and ended up putting in a rebound for a layup with just 2 seconds remaining in the game. "That's just gut wrenching the way the game went down," said Kilburn – Steveskey, "the kid takes a last second shot, we defend the last second shot, it takes a bad bounce on the rebound and they score a layup."
Kilburn – Steveskey's dramatic crew fell to 3 – 3 on the season but took positives out of the experience. "I think we took away from this tournament," said the coach, "that we can play with everybody, but you have to do all the little things in order to get that W [win]."
The Pride return to action at home Tuesday, December 8th against a much improved Fairfield team. You can trust that the Pride will spend the week leading up, practicing their free throws.