By Joe Pantorno, Sports Editor
With two teams ranked in the nation's top 20 in RPI, the Hofstra women's basketball team had its three game winning streak snapped by Ivy League powerhouse Princeton, 74-69 on Thursday night.
"It was a hard fought battle that we knew it was going to be," said head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. "This one was a tough one to swallow."
Princeton jumped out to a 14-5 lead to start the game and immediately took out Hofstra's greatest threat, junior forward Shante Evans, by bringing the game right at her. Evans collected two fouls in the game's first seven minutes forcing Kilburn-Steveskey to sit her for the final 13 minutes of the half.
"It was definitely frustrating," said Evans. "I come into every game doing whatever it takes to help my team and the best thing I could do was cheer my team and encourage them, but it definitely sucks watching."
Princeton, behind the play guard Lauren Edwards took a nine point lead going into halftime after Hofstra battled back to close its early deficit.
In her absence, senior guard Nicole Capurso was on fire from the field, collecting 16 of her career high 24 points in the first half, going 6-9 from the field and 4-6 from three-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
"I was just trying to play and do the little things to keep us above water in the time until we could get Shante back," said Capurso.
Hofstra cut into the Princeton to start the half, getting within three, with three minutes gone, but the Tigers responded with an 11-0 run to reestablish a large lead at 50-36.
With another uphill battle, the Pride slowly mounted another comeback, getting to within four at 57-53 with nine minutes left in the game, but Princeton went on a 7-0 run to go back up 11 points.
There was still enough time for another comeback attempt and behind Evans, who recorded her double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds all in the second half, cut the deficit to three at 71-68 with one minute left in the game.
Hofstra's press proved problematic for Princeton as the game progressed and with 36 seconds left, a steal by senior guard Candice Bellocchio, who had 13 assists on the night, fed Evans for a wide open lay-up to bring the game within one, but she missed and Princeton was able to close out the game from there.
"We just kept getting to that point where we would cut it to within seven and they would hit that shot and get back up to ten," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "We didn't get the stops that we needed to get."
Twenty-seven turnovers did not help Hofstra's cause as sloppy play made the comeback trail just that much more treacherous.
"We just need to get our confidence back," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "It comes down to decision making when we're in transition, we still have a lot of turnovers in transition. We're throwing the ball away at crucial moments and it's brutal."
Sophomore guard Katelyn Loper added ten points but shot only 30 percent from the field as her shooting struggles continue.
"I just tell her to keep shooting," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "She has a green light and she generally stops herself before I stop her. She just needs to take a deep breath here and find those open opportunities."
Asked whether she thought this loss was just a blip on the radar, Kilburn-Steveskey said that was what she told her team as the Pride prepares for conference play against Drexel on January 5.
"We've done way too many good things here and there is a lot of season left to let anything down," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "We're going to learn."