By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
With the Mack Sports Complex packed and pink, the Hofstra University women's basketball team dropped a closely contested 79-77 decision to Old Dominion University on Sunday's "Think Pink" Day in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.
"It was a hard fought battle and I'm disappointed we didn't get the reward," said head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey.
There was quite a quick pace to start the game as both teams looked to open up the game with their speed. Old Dominion started the game on a 7-2 run after some early Hofstra turnovers and missed chances gave the Lady Monarchs the ball in good offensive positions.
Though junior guard Nicole Capurso was a little cold from three-point range, she was making great drives to the hoop along with sophomore forward Shante Evans. Hofstra's press defense started causing problems for ODU which sparked a 7-0 Pride run to take an 11-9 lead with six and a half minutes gone in the first half.
Old Dominion's defense picked back up, forcing consecutive Pride turnovers, utilizing the fast break and opening up a 10 point lead at 26-16 with 10:06 left in the first.
It was Capurso and junior guard Candice Bellocchio to spark the Pride back into action to start another Hofstra run, cutting ODU's lead to three after a 7-0 run.
Hofstra started having troubles rebounding as ODU was gaining second and third chances on the offensive board, keeping its lead into the last minutes of the half. The Pride was playing some hard-nosed basketball though, trying to keep up with Old Dominion's physical play.
Capurso was heating up from three-point land and was almost single handedly keeping the score line close, dropping 17 points in the opening 20 minutes.
"My three-point shot has not been very successful these past few games," said Capurso. "So the past few games I've been getting to the basket and I've had success with that and once I got into the flow of shooting, I hit a bunch in a row."
A last second lay-up from freshman guard Kate Loper cut Old Dominion's lead to one as the Pride hit the locker room down one, 39-38. Evans added seven to the Hofstra effort, but the Pride turned the ball over 14 times in the first half.
The beginning of the second half was more of the same with both teams trading baskets as there was a frantic feel to the game.
Old Dominion slowed down the game a bit and was able to take a 48-46 lead with 5:11 gone in the second, but the Hofstra defense picked up yet again, winning some key rebounds and disturbing the ODU offense enough to force some bad shots. The Pride offense however was also having difficulty finding the basket, keeping the game close.
A three-pointer from ODU's Kquanise Byrd opened up a 62-54 for the Lady Monarchs but the Pride was not going away.
Some dazzling play inside from Evans and the sweet shooting of Loper and freshman guard Annie Payton tied the game at 64 with 6:55 remaining in the game.
Sophomore guard Candace Bond led the defense by example with some inspiring play that was giving ODU's offense fits.
"She was phenomenal," said Steveskey. "She finds a way to stay on the floor and we're better because of her."
Old Dominion took a three-point lead, only to have it tied up at 69 by another three from Loper with 4:18 left.
A highly contested lay-up from Evans gave the Pride a 71-69 lead with just under four minutes remaining, but a lay-up from junior center Tia Lewis tied things right back up.
Loper was on fire from beyond the arc, hitting yet another tre to give Hofstra a 74-73 lead with two and a half minutes left.
"We have great balance," said Steveskey. "So when they [ODU] think we're going to Te [Evans] down the stretch, we had Kate [Loper] and Nic [Capurso] in the corners that can drill it for us so it's hard to defend us like that."
ODU scored four straight points to take a 77-74 lead with 1:25 to go after some impressive shooting.
A lay-up from Evans cut the deficit back to one. A great defensive stand gave Hofstra the ball back and Kate Loper drew some contact and a foul with 32.8 seconds left to go to the charity stripe for two shots.
The freshman hit the first, but missed the second as ODU called timeout with 23.2 seconds left to plan for a last second shot with the score knotted at 77.
With 3.4 seconds left, weaved through some heavy Hofstra traffic and hit a lay-up to put ODU up 79-77. A timeout gave Hofstra time to draw up a game tier or winner, but they had to go the length of the floor to do so.
The Pride could not get down the length of the court in time to get a shot off, dropping to 15-11 overall and 7-8 in CAA play.
"We know we're talented enough and I think it's been a rollercoaster getting people to step up," said Steveskey. "At the end of the day we lost because we couldn't get a defensive stop."
Capurso finished with 19 points, Evans had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Loper added 17. Hofstra is next action on Thursday when it hosts George Mason on Thursday afternoon.