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Capurso's buzzer beater slays Dragons

By Christian Heimall, Staff Writer

The Hofstra Pride Women's Basketball team has accomplished something no Colonial Athletic Association team has since January 27, 2008; beat Drexel at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Behind a team leading 21 points from sophomore guard Nicole Capurso, including the game winner in overtime, the Pride knocked off the Dragons by a final of 68-67 on Sunday.

The win was Hofstra's fifth in their last six games, improving their record to 16-11 overall, 9-6 in CAA play. It was the first win for Hofstra against Drexel since February 15, 2007 and their third overtime win of the season. Coincidentally, all three overtime wins have come on the road.

"We know what we're capable of, physically [we] can go out and match against anyone in this league," said head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. "I'm very proud of our effort tonight, very proud of Nicole Capurso, but it was a team win."

The win was anything but smooth sailing for the Pride. Hofstra was up 13 points at halftime and extended that lead to 16 early in the second half. However, Drexel senior forward and reigning CAA Player of the Year Gabriella Marginean scored a game-high 31 points to bring her squad back to tie it up at 59 apiece at the end of regulation.

In overtime, Hofstra's mental toughness was put to the test once again. Drexel went ahead 63-62 and took their first lead since they led 8-6 in the first half, but Hofstra would trade buckets with the preseason favorites the entire way. With 20 seconds left in overtime and trailing 67-66, Hofstra had possession and the shot-clock turned off.

Capurso, who scored double-digits for the sixth straight contest, got the ball with 10 seconds left and drove down the left side of the lane and hit a running layup with two seconds remaining. Drexel attempted a desperation shot at the buzzer that fell well short, ending a streak of 21 consecutive home wins against CAA opponents.

"We just needed to win. I think all 10 of us were just ‘we need to get out of here with a win," said Capurso. "We knew they were going to make their runs and we just had to sustain them."

Joining Capurso in double-figures were freshman forward Shante Evans, with 12 points, and senior guard Sam Brigham, with 10 points. Sophomore guard Candice Bellocchio contributed eight points, nine assists, six boards and three steals with only three turnovers.

As for Drexel, sophomore Kamile Nacickaite joined Marginean in double-digits with 16 points. The Pride's aggressive defense forced Drexel to commit 23 turnovers, higher than their average of 14 per game.

The victory for Hofstra improved their chances for a first-round bye at the conference tournament. With the win, they stay just one game behind James Madison for the fourth seed and final bye and tied with Delaware for fifth in the conference. The Pride is next in action Thursday night, February 25, at 7 p.m. as it travels to Towson.
 

(Sean M. Gates/ The Chronicle)

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