By Joe Pantorno, Sports Editor
Sure, the Hofstra University women's basketball team's 72-66 victory over Northeastern was important in that it keeps the Pride in the CAA race coming into a huge game against conference leaders Delaware. But it was also a milestone win for head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey, who won her 100th game at the helm of Hofstra, a moment six years in the making.
"Obviously I thank my team, obviously all my former players, not to sound to clichéd but I want to thank my team tonight," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "We've worked hard over these past six years to build this program, we actually talked about the building blocks before this game, especially with [senior guard] Candice [Bellocchio] and [senior guard] Nicole Capurso."
Sure there were smiles and sighs of relief after the game, but it wasn't for the occasion of the milestone.
"To be honest, the sighs of relief was because we got the W," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "And then I was like ‘oh yeah, my hundredth win. You might not think it's true but that's pretty much how I shoot from the hip."
Hofstra relied on the offensive outputs of junior forward Shante Evans and sophomore guard Katelyn Loper in order to keep Northeastern at bay.
Evans recorded 21 points and 13 rebounds, her eleventh double-double of the season, and Loper added 18 points on 7-12 shooting, easily her best shooting game this season.
"It helps [my confidence] a little bit," said Loper. "It all comes from my team; it all comes from my coaches telling me that you're going to hit the next one. If they didn't say that I think it would be a little tougher."
Northeastern was able to keep up with Hofstra due to their shooting ability from the three-point line. The Huskies, who has attempted 400 three-pointers in 18 games this season, shot 10-27 from beyond the arc on Sunday night. Deanna Kerkhof and Alec'a Mark tied for team high honors with three three-pointers made.
"They shoot tons of threes and we knew that," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "The made way too many threes than they should have made tonight."
It was a close contest from the start as both sides traded baskets for a majority of the game, but Hofstra's ability to get to the free throw line and cause turnovers turned out to be the deciding factor.
Hofstra recorded 24 free throw attempts, going 17-24 for 70.8 percent compared to Northeastern's 4-6 from the charity stripe.
"We stayed on our feet, we quit going in for reach-ins," said Kilburn-Steveskey of her team's ability to stay out of foul trouble. "We did a good job of doing that tonight."
With turnovers being one of the problems Hofstra has faced throughout the year, Hofstra forced 21 takeaways while giving the ball up 16 times, one of the lower game totals of the season.
Northeastern managed to tie the game at 45 with four minutes gone in the second half, but a 10-0 Hofstra run fueled by Evans and Loper created another hill for the Huskies to climb, but the outside shooting from the visitors sparked a 14-4 run to tie the game at 59 with 5:38 left in the game.
"This was just a dog eat dog battle," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "We had chances to push away, but were kind of stepping on our foot a few times but that's the way this conference is and no one is going to back down."
A three from Loper put Hofstra ahead three and a clutch jumper by junior forward Candace Bond helped seal the win. Bond, who has been accredited as a defensive force, showed her offensive game in a big way for Hofstra, playing the full 40 minutes.
"She had such an impact we just couldn't take her off the floor," said Kilburn-Steveskey. "I'm pretty hard on her as a coach just for her to go out and do the things she is capable of doing. She's a gifted athlete and a skilled player on top."
Hofstra is next in action tonight in a huge CAA match-up when the number two seed Pride travels down to Newark to take on the conference leading Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens.