By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
ALBANY, NY- The Hofstra University women's basketball team looked to stay hot in the frigid state capital in search of its seventh consecutive win against the Great Danes of the University at Albany.
Within the first minutes, it was clear that Hofstra had an advantage under the glass as sophomore forward Shante Evans was able to take on and beat two or three defenders at a time under the basket.
Hofstra's defense remained stifling like it has been throughout the season as the full court press was frustrating the Great Danes.
With the defensive pressure, Hofstra was able to open up the game on a 10-2 run with senior guard Aamira Terry's three-pointer from the right corner with four minutes gone in the opening half.
With 14:33 left in the half, Hofstra's newest debutant, junior guard Jael Pena scored her first points with the Pride, a driving lay up to the basket as Hofstra extended its lead to 19-8.
"She [Pena] was fantastic," said head coach Krista Killburn-Steveskey. "Jael is going to bring so much of this defense to our team it's going to be amazing."
Freshman guard Kate Loper had the hot hand from deep, hitting four of six three-point attempts in the first half.
Albany was able to chip away at the Hofstra lead led by junior guard Felicia Johnson. With nine and a half minutes remaining, the Hofstra lead was down to six at 23-17.
With sloppy play affecting both sides, the Pride's full court press was really getting to the Great Danes as even inbound passes were disrupted by the Hofstra defense. Albany had 23 turnovers in the first half alone, sixteen of them were steals.
Bellocchio and Evans led the Pride with 12 points in the first half as the teams hit the locker room with Hofstra up 47-29.
Albany came out a bit more improved than in the first, finding ways to get passed the full court press. However, both teams were trading baskets in the first four minutes with the score at 57-37.
Loper sunk two consecutive threes from deep to open up a 24-point lead for the Pride with 14:48 remaining in the game.
"Kate can score and Kate can defend," said Steveskey. "The people she is guarding aren't getting baskets. We aren't trading baskets for baskets with Kate on the floor."
The Pride defense picked up the pressure on Albany, creating even more turnovers and extending its lead to 71-42 with 12:45 remaining. The Pride created 27 turnovers in total and took advantage, putting the game out of reach.
"We really caused a lot of havoc," said Steveskey. "We see people second guessing how they're going to throw the ball in."
With the lead expanding to 28 points, there was no let up in Hofstra's pace as they kept control of the tempo for the entire game.
"I think we ran them out of the gym," said Bellocchio. "And that was the emphasis and we pushed for 40 minutes and I think the subs did a great job in keeping the tempo up."
In the last six and a half minutes, the Great Danes tried to take a page out of Hofstra's defensive playbook, going into a full court press. It was not as effective as the Pride's as Hofstra extended its lead to its largest of the game at 31 points with the score 81-50.
With the lead fluctuating around 30 points, the Pride was able to run out the clock for a 90-60 victory, its seventh consecutive win.
Loper led the team with 21 points, Evans added 14, Bellocchio had 13 and senior center Isoken Uzamere had a career high with 10.
The Pride are next in action on Wednesday, December 22 at the Mack Sports Complex when they take on the University of Hartford.