By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
The Hofstra University women's basketball team came out on top in another physical installment of its rivalry against Drexel, 66-59 on Thursday night.
Both teams were ripping the nylon early as the long range shooters came out to play with Drexel grabbing a 10-5 in the game's first four minutes.
In order to get past Hofstra's full court press, Drexel used some great ball movement to find open looks. The Dragons were also using their physical play to keep the Hofstra defense on its toes.
When Hofstra's shooting cooled off, the guards found the Pride's leading scorer under the basket as sophomore forward Shante Evans was able to match Drexel's physical play under the basket.
The Pride used an 8-2 run to take a one point lead, but Drexel found its rhythm and reasserted the physical play to end the Hofstra run. With 11:45 left in the first half, the Dragons led 17-13.
Hofstra's offense went ice cold for the next three and a half minutes, not registering a single point as Drexel controlled the tempo of the game and preventing the Pride from running its offense. When Hofstra could not score, it could not run its press defense to try and slow down the Dragons' offense, which held a 22-15 lead with 6:51 left in the first.
The Pride ignited in the last six minutes, fighting and scrapping its way back into the game with a momentum changing 17-2 run as tempers began to flare not only for the players on the floor but the coaches as well. Hofstra began to take control of the tempo and shut down Drexel's offense for the rest of the half as the Pride hits the locker room leading 30-23 lead. Evans led all scorers at the break with 14 points and added nine rebounds.
"It's crazy," said head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. "It's like a chess match with them sometimes. The team really buckled down and played smart."
The Pride still managed to keep control of the tempo to begin the second half as sophomore guard Candace Bond continued to spark the Pride on both ends of the floor with some vital defensive rebounds and impressive shooting.
Evans continued to do what she did best, wreaking havoc under the basket grabbing both offensive and defensive boards and putting the ball in the basket. With seven and a half minutes gone in the second, Hofstra still held a seven point lead at 42-35.
"People do whatever they can to hold me down, pushing me and double teaming me," said Evans. "I felt like I was in a flow in today's game, definitely felt dominant."
Freshman guard Kate Loper, who did not have her best shooting day, hit her shots from three-point range when she needed to, hitting one from beyond the arc to help extend Hofstra's lead to 50-40 with nine minutes left in the game.
The Pride managed to avoid foul trouble and kept Drexel off the free throw line for the entire half. Hofstra however, went to the line 27 times, shooting 85.2% from the charity stripe.
"We're a team of good foul shooters," said Capurso. "For us to get to the line and Te [Evans] going nine for nine everyone just feeds off that and that helped us get our confidence back up."
The likes of Bond, junior guard Nicole Capurso and senior guard Aamira Terry gave Drexel's transition game fits, getting their hands on the ball and causing some big turnovers.
"Sometimes your team needs different things for you to win," said Capurso. "I think it comes in the flow of the game."
Drexel cut the Hofstra lead to within five at 58-53 with 4:14 remaining as the Pride's shooting went cold.
The lead shrunk to three with 3:18 left with Drexel beginning to pick Hofstra's press apart finding some easy shots under the basket.
It was a one point game just twenty seconds later after a pass intended for Evans was picked off and layed in on the fast break.
Bond hit a mid-range jumper to re-open the lead to three with 2:15 left and a missed three by Drexel had Hofstra looking to extend the lead to five. A missed runner from Bond seemed to fall into the hands of a Drexel forward, but Terry plucked the ball right out of her grasp and reset Hofstra's offensive attack with 1:41 left.
A layup from Capurso had Hofstra back up five with 1:24 remaining and the ensuing Drexel possession saw some stifling Hofstra defense, forcing junior forward Kamile Nacickaite to throw up a layup that hit nothing but iron. Junior guard Jael Pena grabbed the rebound as Drexel began to send the Pride to the charity stripe.
Bellocchio and Pena made their free throws to ice the game and improve Hofstra's record to 14-9 overall and 6-6 in CAA play.
Evans finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds, Capurso had 11 points and Bond added seven points and seven rebounds. The Pride is next in action on Sunday when it travels down to Richmond to take on VCU.