By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
Sophomore forward Shante Evans recorded yet another double double with 25 points and 14 rebounds as the Hofstra University women's basketball team stopped a two game skid with an 81-68 victory over the University of Delaware.
Poor shooting from the start questioned each team's toughness as loose and 50/50 balls were gathered early by Hofstra, who started the game on a 7-0 run. The Pride was moving the ball excellently on offense, making the extra pass to find an open shot.
The defense was not giving Delaware anything as the full court pressure caused some Blue Hen turnovers and bad shots.
After the under 16 timeout, Delaware's shooting picked up as they got right back into the game, grabbing a 14-13 lead after a deep three-pointer from sophomore forward Elena Delle Donne with 12:45 remaining in the first half.
Even with a size disadvantage, Hofstra was able to control the boards early, limiting Delaware second chances and creating second chances of its own despite some sloppy play.
"We played our two-three zone and tried to play it smart," said head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. "The biggest thing is it's hard to rebound sometimes out of that and I think we did a great job finding people and rebounding today."
Steveskey gave 5'5" junior guard Jael Pena the responsibility of guarding 6'5" Delle Donne who has consistently given the Pride fits in the past and even with a one foot height advantage, Pena worked hard trying to prevent Delle Donne from easy baskets.
"You know how what a good defender Jael is," said Steveskey. "She does a great job and she helped the zone tonight."
Delaware's star sophomore did have eight points however to help give Delaware a 19-17 lead with 7:56 left in the opening period. Hofstra was having a difficult time sinking its open looks from long distance which could have given them a healthy advantage.
"I kept saying not to focus on her [Delle Donne]," said Steveskey. "We didn't focus on it or talk about it even when things were in my ear because it's like she's going to get hers."
After the under eight minute media timeout, Hofstra re took the lead with an 8-2 run thanks in part to some stellar defense, a great transition game and some brilliant passing under the leadership of junior guard Candice Bellocchio.
Freshman guard Kate Loper caught fire, sinking two consecutive three's and junior guard Nicole Capurso added two of her own in a minute span creating a 14-1 run, opening up Hofstra's lead to 43-30 going into halftime. Capurso had 13 points and sophomore forward Shante Evans recorded a double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"I think they [Delaware] underestimated me," said Loper. "When me and Nic [Capurso] are hitting they [Delaware] don't know what to do."
Both teams traded baskets to start the second half, each hot from the field but Hofstra still held a 50-39 advantage with four minutes gone in the second half.
Delle Donne tried to put the Blue Hens on her back as she proved to be almost 50 percent of Delaware's points, who still trailed the Pride 54-43 with 14:30 left in the ball game.
Loper, Capurso and Evans continued to put on a scoring clinic as Hofstra seized some momentum in the first seven minutes of the second frame and continued to break down Delaware and frustrate the Blue Hens with amazing defense as the lead grew to 16 points, the Pride's largest of the game.
"Kate was either open or Shante was sitting on the block with one guard on her, which is open," said Capurso. "And it was just a no brainer, they were open and literally open looks."
"It's the most wide open I felt all season," said Loper.
Shante Evans continued to wreak havoc under the basket on both ends of the floor as the sophomore and Delle Donne were locked in a scoring showdown. That however, was the only scoring showdown in the game as Hofstra kept its big lead with eight and a half minutes left and the score at 65-51.
"I made sure I turned and saw the basket and just put the ball in the basket," said Evans.
Delaware kept pushing to found some success offensively, but could not stop the Hofstra attack. The Pride had four scorers in double figures which was a tribute to the great ball movement.
Hofstra stuck to the game plan to run out the clock, maintaining the quick pace that they emphasized all season, not growing complacent with the large lead.
Delle Donne did finish with 28 points, but was the only Blue Hen to find success as Delaware drops to 11-9 on the season and 4-5 in conference play.
Loper had 18 points, all from three-pointers and Capurso had 13. Along with Evans, Loper and Capurso, Bellocchio and sophomore guard Candace Bond were double digit scorers on the evening as Hofstra improves to 12-8 overall and 4-5 in CAA play. The Pride is next in action on Thursday, February 3 when it hosts William & Mary.