By Joe Pantorno, Sports Editor
The last time the Hofstra University women's basketball team played James Madison, the Pride overcame a 23 point second half deficit to shock the Dukes in a 75-73 win last February. James Madison made sure there was no such magic this time at the Mack as they smacked Hofstra 81-63 for the Pride's first conference loss of the season.
"This is a tough one to swallow here. They're [James Madison] are a team that came out real physical and we did not respond," said head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey, who was going for her 100th career victory at Hofstra. "It's a little painful but we really need to learn a tough, tough, miserable lesson here tonight."
Usually a team that can jump out on its opponent and grab a quick lead, Hofstra (13-4, 5-1 CAA) was stifled early by James Madison (13-4, 4-2 CAA) whose rebounding ability prevented Hofstra from running the court as it so normally does.
Hofstra was being out-hustled and out-muscled by James Madison as loose balls and second chance opportunities clearly favored the visitors. For the game, James Madison out-rebounded Hofstra 64-45.
"Knowing the game plan and executing the game plan are two completely different things," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "It was disappointing we knew they were going to come at us in rebounding because their shooting percentage is not great so there's a lot of balls coming off and they just pursued it better than we did."
What made matters worse for Hofstra was that junior forward Shante Evans sat out ten of the opening 20 minutes due to foul trouble, she only had four points and one rebound in the first half.
Evans had to watch from the bench as James Madison controlled the boards, led by freshman forward Toia Giggetts who had a career day fueled by an impressive first half. Giggetts established a career high of 15 points in the first half along with adding eight rebounds.
"It's very frustrating [sitting on the bench]," said Evans. "The best thing I could do was probably bring positive energy and encourage them on rebounding."
James Madison junior guard Tarik Hislop provided the hot hand early as she sank her first three shots of the game while scoring 16 of a game high 25 points in the first.
Hofstra did manage to keep up with James Madison as the return of sophomore guard Katelyn Loper, who missed the past two games with injury, proved vital as she hit her first three three-point attempts of the game, leading the Pride with nine points and starting a late 14-8 run with eight minutes left in the half to cut the deficit to three going into halftime at 35-32.
"That [Loper's shooting] was nice, she had been practicing well," said Kilburn-Steveskey.
Evans returned to the game with a vengeance, scoring Hofstra's first six points while bringing her side to within one, but her second half performance was overshadowed by James Madison junior guard Jasmine Gill.
After shooting just 1-10 in the first half, Gill came alive, scoring 19 of her 21 points in the second on 6-13 shooting from the floor. Behind her, Hislop and Giggetts, James Madison pulled away, with the dagger being a 12-3 run that put the Dukes up 20 with 40 seconds left.
"They came out hard like we knew they would," said Evans. "We just didn't step up."
"It's sad when you know how they are physically going to come at you and really having them respond to that," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "They were playing with more heart. Every time I looked there were five purple jerseys on the floor and we didn't respond to that."
The three woman show of Gill, Hislop and Giggetts, who finished with 21 points, accounted for 67 of James Madison's 83 points.
Evans provided Hofstra with a team high 14 points while junior forward Candace Bond led the team with nine rebounds.
"These guys know how we operate here we're not country club folks, we're little blue collar workers," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "We got treated like we were country club folks tonight we got kind of beat up on and we didn't respond."
With Delaware defeating Towson last night and improving to 6-0 in conference play, Hofstra drops to second place in the CAA. Hofstra is next in action Sunday at the Mack looking to rebound against Northeastern at 2:00 p.m.
"We're not going to forget about this loss," said Evans. "But we are going to move onto the next game."