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Pride just miss first round bye after falling to Blue Hens

By Christian Heimall, Staff Writer

In the final week of the regular season the Hofstra women's basketball team took on three teams they suffered losses to earlier in the year. Hofstra went 2-1 in those three contests with a road win against Towson 47-41, a 53-37 win against Northeastern and a 59-41 loss at Delaware. The Pride finished out the regular season with a conference record of 11-7, which is good for the sixth seed in next week's CAA Tournament in Harrisonburg, VA.

Last Thursday, Hofstra traveled to Towson to take on the Tigers in what proved to be a defensive struggle. Each team turned the ball over more than their season average. The Tigers had 18 turnovers (average 16) while Hofstra turned over the rock 24 times (average 20 per game). The difference in the contest was Hofstra's ability to shoot over 40 percent from the floor while holding Towson to under 31 percent.

"Towson does such a good job defending their home court and we knew that coming in," said Head Coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. "I'm just really proud of my team that was a team win. [We] knew they were going to be all over Nicole Capurso…[we] knew they were going to be doubling Candice [Bellocchio] and to me that's the mark of a good team."

Freshman forward Shante Evans recorded her twelfth double-double of the year with 17 points and 14 rebounds. The West Chester, PA native was able to show off her ball-handling skills as numerous times she drained key shots for the Pride off the dribble.

On Sunday, the school recognized guard Sam Brigham and center Jess Fuller as they were honored in a pre-game ceremony as the lone seniors on the team this season."I got here first and I wasn't the coach that recruited Sam but she came out swinging," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "Sam has developed this kind of culture into our program…she has set that tone."

Brigham, the last remaining player from the 2006-07 team that made a run into the WNIT Quarterfinals, is among the top ten in three-pointers and games played. Meanwhile Fuller, who only played two seasons after transferring from Monroe Community College  owns the career blocks record with 187, the top two single season blocks record and the top two single season field goal percentage marks.

"Jess came in here and obviously [everyone] knows what she can do on the court," commented Kilburn-Steveskey. "Her best basketball is still coming when she is making big dollars playing overseas."

What made the day even more special was the resounding 53-37 victory over Northeastern the Pride gave its graduating seniors in their final home contest. Fuller got the action started with four quick points as the Pride jumped out to an early 8-0 lead. The Huskies would fight back to make the score 16-11 in favor of Hofstra before the Pride went on an 11 to 4 run to close out the half with a 27-15 lead.

In the second half Northeastern cut the lead to just six at 39-33 before Hofstra pushed it back up to double digits but the physical play would continue.

"I love physicality and you guys know that," said Kilburn-Steveskey after the game. "It was a physical game and it was very hard to figure out how to maintain it on both parties."
Brigham ended her home career with a six point, three board effort in the victory. Fuller finished with 12 points, four rebounds and six blocks in her final home game.

"Time just went by so fast. I was sitting in my room yesterday thinking about it," said Fuller. "It's bittersweet, I'm going to miss it but it's not over yet."

Hofstra's defensive effort was exceptional as they held the Huskies to just 26 percent from the floor including 13 percent from three point range (3 of 33). The 37 points was the fewest amount Hofstra allowed to any opponent since defeating James Madison 43-37 in the 2003-04 season, when Coach Kilburn-Steveskey was a member of the Dukes coaching staff.

Finally last night, Hofstra traveled to Newark, DE to face off with the Fightin' Blue Hens and All-CAA everything player Elena Delle Donne. Delle Donne was not anticipated to start due to an ankle injury, but when tip-off came the All-American candidate was suited up and on the court.

Delaware jumped on top early with a 7-0 lead before Hofstra was able to close the gap and eventually take a 16-15 lead. Delle Donne, thanks to stout defense from junior guard Aamira Terry, missed her first seven attempts from the field before draining a runner in the lane to put the Hens up five at 21-16. On the very next possession Delle Donne drilled a three to give Delaware a 24-16 advantage.

"Aamira Terry was doing a great job and the rest of us weren't following suit," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "That part was very disappointing and we've got a week to get ready for the tournament."

Delle Donne finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds to tie Hofstra's Evans with a league leading 13 double-doubles. She also went 16 of 17 from the free throw line. Those 16 free throws made by Delle Donne equaled the amount of field goals made by the entire Hofstra team, who shot 16-63 from the field (25.4 percent).

Delle Donne was joined by teammates Danielle Parker and Tesia Harris in double figures who scored 11 and 10 points respectively. Parker also finished with 11 boards for a double-double.

"We are a top four team," said Kilburn-Stevesky. "But we didn't end up there so we have to prove ourselves."

The Pride was led by Evans who finished the game with 14 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Nicole Capurso scored 11 points as well making this the seventh game in her last ten that she scored in double-digits.

Freshman forward Shante Evans scored 14 points in the Pride's loss at Delaware but was overshadowed all night by the Blue Hens' freshman forward Elena Delle Donne. (Sean M. Gates/ The Chronicle)

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