By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
Sophomore forward Shante Evans recorded 19 points and a career high 23 rebounds in the Hofstra University women's basketball's victory over George Mason on Thursday afternoon, 77-69.
Junior guard Candice Bellocchio sparked the Pride early with Hofstra's first six points, but the start was less than impressive with turnovers galore from both sides.
George Mason took advantage of Hofstra's turnovers going on a 7-2 run to take a 13-6 lead with 4:19 gone in the first half.
Freshman forward Anma Onyeuku scored four consecutive points to cut Hofstra's deficit to five at 15-10, but the Pride continued to turn the ball over.
Mason was out hustling the Pride especially in the transition game as the Patriots' lead grew to 10 at 22-12.
Hofstra had some great difficulty hitting its shots resulting in the Pride not playing the style of its defense, guarding against transition and the fast break instead of settling into its full court press. Mason took a 13 point lead with ten minutes remaining at 27-14.
The shooting woes continued for Hofstra, hitting 29 percent of its shots with just under seven minutes remaining in the half, but some great defense kept the Pride in the game, down 27-18.
The defense continued to hold things together until the shooting warmed up, not allowing a Mason field goal for almost nine minutes. A three-pointer from senior guard Aamira Terry cut the Hofstra deficit to six with three and a half minutes left.
The play from Terry sparked a 9-1 Hofstra a Hofstra run, scoring five consecutive points and making some great passes and with 2:30 left, the Hofstra deficit was just one.
Even though the Pride has had such trouble rebounding, it dominated the offensive boards, creating two, three and even four different scoring opportunities in one offensive possession.
The run continued and a lay-up from junior guard Jael Pena ended a 13-1 run that put Hofstra up 29-28 with 1:10 remaining in the half.
Teams traded baskets to end the half, with Mason going into the locker room up 32-31. Evans had eight points and ten rebounds to lead the Pride in the opening 20 minutes.
There was not much scoring to start the second half, as both teams could not find their shooting touch. With three minutes gone in the second, Hofstra held a 35-34 lead and continued to control the offensive boards.
The referees began taking over the game with 11 fouls called in the first four minutes as the physicality of the game began to pick up as Evans picked up a couple of bumps and bruises that took her out of the game for a couple minutes.
A lay-up from Onyeuku capped a 7-0 run that put Hofstra up 40-34 with just over four minutes gone in the second half. Bellocchio set the example for the team with some great hustle and though sometimes getting clobbered, the junior guard continued to put her body on the line to spark the Pride.
Four straight points from junior guard Nicole Capurso and a steal and lay-up from Terry gave Hofstra an eight point lead with 13 minutes remaining as the Pride upped the defensive pressure and looked to put Mason away.
Evans continued to star not only on the score sheet, but under the basket, picking out every chance for a rebound and recording her fourteenth double-double of the season.
Hofstra did a great job getting to the line with some impressive drives to the basket and drawing contact. With just under 10 minutes remaining, Hofstra led 57-47.
George Mason started chipping its way back into the game down six, but constant fouls and turnovers made hopes of a comeback very difficult.
Evans and Bellocchio continued to excel to keep the Hofstra lead at 63-57 with 6:10 left in the game, but Mason was not going away anytime soon as teams traded baskets.
The Pride's lead was down to four at 65-61 with three and a half minutes left as Hofstra continued to look to Evans to keep Mason at bay on both ends of the court.
A lay-up from Terry put Hofstra back up eight at 69-61 with 2:46 left in the game but the foul trouble that had taken the second half over was keeping Mason in the game.
A 6-2 run from Mason put the score at 71-67 with 1:24 left with the Patriots staying in the game with some automatic shooting from the free-throw line.
With Hofstra up 73-69 and 32 seconds left, Mason began fouling the Pride, sending it to the line. Pena missed both free throws, but the defense came up large, forcing a deep Patriot three-pointer that missed with the rebound collected by sophomore guard Candace Bond.
Two hit free throws from Bond and some stellar defense allowed Hofstra to kill the game for the Pride to improve to 16-10 on the season overall and 8-8 in CAA play.
The Pride is next in action on Sunday when it hosts conference leaders James Madison at 2 p.m.