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Pride win two CAA games, suffer one big loss

By Christian Heimall, Staff Writer

Coming off a five point defeat at the hands of Old Dominion last Sunday, the Pride women's basketball team took out their frustrations on two lower level CAA squads to move to 15-10 overall and 6-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Last Thursday, Hofstra traveled to Fairfax, Virginia to take on the Patriots of George Mason University. Behind 20 points from sophomore sharp-shooter Nicole Capurso and 14 from senior center Jess Fuller, the Pride dominated GMU from start to finish winning by a final tune of 72-39. Capurso, who struggled with her shooting early on in the year, went 7 of 11 from the field including 4-6 from downtown.

Early on the Patriots hung with the Pride, but with the score in favor of Hofstra at 10-8, the Pride went on a 19 to 3 run to push the lead to 29-11 and never looked back. At halftime Hofstra led 31-14 with Capurso having 14 including the first 8 points of the early run. The lead was consistently above 30 for a majority of the second half, even getting pushed up to 40 at points in the final five minutes. The 33 point margin of victory was the largest this season surpassing a 25 point win over St. Francis (NY) earlier in the year.

Other notable scorers for the Pride in their victory included sophomore guard Candice Bellocchio who had 10 points and 5 assists as well as senior guard Sam Brigham. Brigham had 8 points and tied a career-high 6 assists in the win (Hofstra's third road victory in their last four chances). Brigham also hit a three pointer in the second half which placed her in a tie with Diane Hobin for sixth all-time (114).

Defensively, the effort was apparent just as much as it was on the offensive side of the ball. The 39 points Mason was held to was the lowest total a Hofstra opponent has scored since a 70-39 win over Stetson College on December 31, 2006. That was also the last time Hofstra defeated a team by more than 30 points. "I think that Hofstra has as balance an attack as anyone I've seen in the league," said Patriot Coach Jeri Porter on this week's CAA Teleconference. "That game was a smack in the mouth, so to speak for us."

On an individual level, Jess Fuller's block on Mason forward Brittany Eley at the 15:14 mark of the first half was rejection number 176 of her career. That breaks the previous Hofstra career blocks record of 175, originally held by Vanessa Gidden who played from 2003-07. Fuller broke the record in only 57 total games after transferring from Monroe Community College prior to the 2007-08 season.

The pure domination continued into the weekend as Hofstra came home to face the Seahawks of UNC-Wilmington on Sunday. Earlier in the year, Hofstra came back late to force overtime in Wilmington before pulling out a win. This time around, there was no chance for extra frames.

Capurso continued her hot shooting going four of eight from the floor and four of six from beyond the arc, to finish with 12 points as the Pride defeated UNCW by a final of 73-58.

The offense was very efficient throughout the contest as the Pride shot 63.6 percent in the first half (their highest of any half all season) and finished the contest at an even 26 for 52 from the field. Freshman forward Shante Evans poured in a game high 28 points on 11 of 14 shooting to give Hofstra their fifth win in their last seven games. Brigham scored 16 points in the effort as well.

One of the more impressive numbers for the Pride was the mere 12 turnovers in the contest, just three in the second half. "I think at the end of the day if they are being more selective with their passes I hope this could be a trend," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "It really is them making that extra pass…and just doing the little things."

Bellocchio was key in the turnover margin as well. The point guard had nine assists to just two turnovers in the ballgame to go along with her nine points. "Obviously that's a pretty big catalyst, she usually has the ball in her hands a majority of the offense so she's going to get a little bit more of the turnovers," said Kilburn-Steveskey after the win.

Evans also played stout defense for the Pride, tallying a career high five steals while helping hold down Seahawks forward Brittney Blackwell to a 5 of 15 shooting performance. "To have to play tough defense on somebody and then go 11 of 14 in your field goal percentage," said Coach Kilburn-Steveskey of her freshman forward. "I don't know if I could ever do that."

Evans post play on defense was especially key in the victory after senior center Jess Fuller went down after rolling her left ankle about six minutes into the first half. Coach Kilburn-Steveskey called the injury day-to-day but hopes that the career leader in blocked shots will be on the floor for this Thursday's game against Virginia Commonwealth University. "We've had to deal with her in some foul issues too so that helped us a little," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "All she was caring about was us getting that [win] and I think we rallied around that situation."

The Rams (16-7, 9-2 CAA) came in to Hempstead a day early to avoid the snow storm across the island as well as the Mid-Atlantic region. The game will be a noon tip-off on Thursday, February 11 as the Hofstra Pride look to win their third straight contest for the third time this year.

Senior center Jess Fuller injured her ankle just minutes into Hofstra's victory over UNCW. (Sean M. Gates/ The Chronicle)

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