By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
After a thirteen-day break, the Hofstra University women's basketball team was back on the court to welcome Fairfield University to the Mack Sports Complex on Sunday, Dec. 5.
Hofstra was without junior center Marie Malone and with that, had one less rebounding and scoring threat.
Defensively, Hofstra started its game in a full court press trying to neutralize the tempo of Fairfield and frustrate the Stags.
"This [the full court press] is new," said head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. "When we get into a routine of playing games, it will help us."
The teams traded baskets to start the game as both teams had difficulty finding their touch from the field as the game stood at 6-6 five minutes in.
The thieves were out early for the Pride as junior guards Candice Bellocchio and Nicole Capurso were able to take advantage of the poor Fairfield passing.
Fairfield could not find an answer to the full court press as it scrambled to find a way to the basket. When Fairfield was able to make it past half court, its shots were forced and not the most ideal.
The Pride was able to start hitting its shots and Capurso's three pointer with 12:44 left in the first half opened up the Hofstra lead to 16-6. Freshman guard Annie Payton's lay up capped off a 14-0 run which included a three-point play by Bellocchio.
Hofstra's lead opened up to 11 with 10 minutes left in the half as the defense stayed stifling. The Pride had eight steals in the half, with senior guard Aamira Terry leading the way with three swipes.
The only bit of offensive success Fairfield was able to muster was off of Hofstra's missed field goals, allowing them to capitalize on the fast break.
Hofstra kept the pace flying as it began outrunning Fairfield and getting easier looks at the basket resulting in an 8-0 run. With five minutes left in the half Hofstra increased the lead to 16, at 32-16.
Just a few second later, freshman guard Kate Loper was fouled on a three point attempt, draining the shot and completing the four point play giving Hofstra the 20 point advantage.
A few mental lapses were still not enough to phase the Hofstra attack and at the half, Hofstra went into the locker room leading 44-25.
After playing just four minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, sophomore forward Shante Evans opened up the scoring in the second half, but the scoring slowed down after the early field goal.
With the lead cut to 16, sophomore guard Candace Bond scored her career high eleventh point for the 51-33 lead with four minutes gone in the second.
"I think I'm really developing more of an offensive game," said Bond. "Especially next to Can – Can [Bellocchio]. We've been getting in the gym more."
Fairfield began to figure out the Pride's full court press as its offense became a bit more fluent with open shots more available, but Hofstra was still able to match baskets with them.
The defense re-established itself for the Pride, as its lead opened up to 28 with a Capurso three-pointer with 13:22 left.
A 9-0 run opened the lead to 30 as the Pride had three players scoring in double figures.
The larger the lead grew, the sloppier Fairfield began to play with travels and missed shots galore.
The lead got up to 33 when some long range passing found Evans for an easy lay in, which at the point, was only the seventh point of the game for the Pride's season leading scorer.
A 7-0 run by Fairfield just made the score line a little less embarrassing as the Pride led 71-42 with nine minutes left.
The Pride began to play a bit sloppy in the last six minutes with a few turnovers, but was still able to keep a healthy lead at 82-58 with just under four minutes remaining.
Fairfield cut the lead to 17 at 84-67 with just under two minutes remaining as the Hofstra took its foot off the accelerator a bit.
"I was just disappointed that we didn't close it out well," said Kilburn - Steveskey. "It was six minutes left and it was 58 points. I don't really care what the situation was. Fairfield is a very good team, I mean they're not going to quit and that just proved that we didn't play smart down the stretch so and we got to close it out for 40 minutes."
There was no need for panic though as the final buzzer confirmed what was determined long before the end of the game as Hofstra came away with the victory, 89-73.
Bond, Capurso and Loper all finished with thirteen points, while Bellocchio added 11, capping off an extraordinary afternoon for the offense.
"It was great to get back on the floor tonight," said Kilburn - Steveskey. "We were glad to get a win because you are always a little apprehensive when you have something like this that you really didn't want to happen. This wasn't planned to have eleven days off it was just a situation we were in and we were glad to get back and get the W."
Hofstra will next be in action when it travels to Niagara on Thursday, Dec. 9.