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Women’s basketball beats Stetson, loses to Texas to start season

By Mike Murabito (Special to the Chronicle)

It was an unfamiliar scene on the floor of the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla. as the Hofstra women’s basketball team kicked off its 2012-13 season at the WBI Tip-Off Classic last weekend.

There was no dynamic guard Candice Bellocchio finessing through defenders on the floor, nor were there shooters Nicole Capurso or Katelyn Loper knocking down three-pointers from seemingly anywhere they so choose.

No, this was a different Hofstra team that is full of youth, still possessing the greatest player to ever suit up for the Pride in two-time All-American forward Shante Evans.

On Friday, they needed every last minute from the senior along with junior guard Annie Payton’s career high 17, to barely come away with a 77-75 win over the Stetson Hatters.

Evans finished with 13 points and 12 boards, notching her 51st career double-double, and put Hofstra back up for good with a go-ahead layup with 44 seconds to go in the contest.

Stetson did have a few opportunities to take the lead back, but were unable to capitalize on any of them, including when Evans missed back to back free throws with 13 seconds left to leave the door wide open.

Even with unproven faces on the floor for head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey and company, especially in the backcourt with sophomore Andreana Thomas and freshman Asia Jackson combining for 23 points, the 12th ranked scoring offense from a year ago did not appear to skip a beat.

Sure there were turnovers, 25 to be exact, but the Pride has proved in the past that those miscues are to usually be expected from the explosive Hofstra offense.

Steveskey did touch on the fact after the win that a team without over half of its scoring from 2011-12, boasting six new faces this season might not be as smooth right out of the gate, which is why the first 20 minutes in game number two against Texas the following day raised some eyebrows.

The Longhorns were coming off a win the day before as well, as they knocked off no. 13 St. John’s 70-60, and it did not look like they were ready to hang with the high flying Pride early on.

Hofstra jumped out to a halftime lead of 34-30, virtually hustling and out-muscling the much bigger Texas team that has only missed the NCAA Tournament four times since 1980.

Then came the second half, where the young Pride team got its first taste of what once again is a brutal non-conference schedule, as it was outscored by 24 points leading to a 72-52 loss.

This marked only the fifth time since start of the 2010-11 season in which the Pride were held to under 60 points.

Everything that was going right in first half seemed to blow up in the Pride’s face in the final 20 minutes, in a game where Texas won the rebound battle by a clean 2:1 margin, and the Hofstra backcourt that dazzled in the opener showed some immaturity with Thomas and Jackson combining for 10 turnovers and only five assists.

Becky Celorio begins her run into Hofstra cross-country lore

Men’s basketball drops season opener at Monmouth