By Frank Aimetti - Staff Writer After a crushing overtime loss against Central Connecticut in their opener, the Pride seemed to take a half of play to return back to their usual form. A slow-paced, messy first half turned into an easy 66-53 win against Fairfield University as the Hofstra offense emerged from their slump in the second half.
The Pride brought full-court pressure to start the game but early foul trouble then slowed Hofstra with star Center Elo Edeferioka suffering two early fouls. Without the centerpiece of both their offense and defense, it was hard for the Pride to gain any sort of rhythm on either side of the ball. Both teams looked to push the pace after rebounds and misses, but turnovers plagued Fairfield along with numerous traveling calls starting the game off at a choppy pace.
Dee Thomas-Palmer took on a lion’s share of the minutes usually designated for Edeferioka. She thrived, displaying her diverse skillset by hitting a three-pointer, battling down low for rebounds and second-chance points, and anchoring the defense on the other side of the floor forcing numerous Fairfield players to adjust their shots for fear of getting blocked. Although Thomas-Palmer recorded only one official block, her interior defense changed Fairfield’s plan of forcing the ball inside. Her final line was 8 points, 2 rebounds and a block, but her impact showed far beyond the stat sheet.
Hofstra held the lead for nearly the entire first half, but they were unable to put any distance between themselves and Fairfield, with the Stags displaying impressive hustle to stay in the game. It wasn’t uncommon to see players from both teams diving on the floor for loose balls and scrapping inside for rebounds and steals.
Freshman guard Ashunae Durant handled the brunt of the scoring load in the first half, with normal high-scorers Edeferioka and Kelly Loftus struggling with foul trouble and a slow start, respectively. The Pride lead shrunk to 30-27 at the half with a lack of ball movement and stagnation hurting the Pride offense. Fairfield did a great job of walling off the paint and forcing Hofstra to take tough, contested jump shots late in the shot clock.
“We had some stagnant moments but we just hung tough with it and tried to get the right people the right shots at the right time,” said Coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky after the game. “We’re going to have those problems, we might be stagnant when someone’s controlling the tempo as this was a slower tempo game.”
It was clear Coach Kilburn-Stevesky prepared the Pride well for the second half, as they came out firing. The Pride looked energized and organized from the start of the half, a vast improvement from how they started the game. Guard Kelly Loftus hit two early threes, shots created by quality ball movement. This got one of Hofstra’s most talented scorers going, with Loftus finding her touch and confidence after her first two shots of the second half went down. Loftus finished with 14 points.
Coming off of a difficult 3-14 shooting night in her previous game against Central Connecticut, and slow start in this game, Kelly said “I just had to get my confidence back after missing that many shots and you know, I was in the gym for two hours before the game so I just had to get my rhythm back and hitting that first shot really gave me confidence to knock down the next one.”
With Elo Edeferioka back in the game after significant foul trouble in the first half, she was able to show her diverse skillset. Her post-ups on offense drew double teams in which she was able to make the right pass to the open player. This resulted in a scrambling Fairfield defense and opened up the game for the Pride. Edeferioka simply proved to be too strong and too talented for Fairfield to handle, finishing with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in what was essentially only one half of basketball due to foul problems.
Point guard Krystal Luciano seemed to find her rhythm in the second half as well, better managing the game both through her passing and scoring and finished with a well-rounded line of 7 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds. Her three-pointer with 7:15 to go broke the game open, giving Hofstra a 57-41 lead and was essentially the dagger to Fairfield’s hopes of winning.
The game finished with a score of 66-53, marked by freshman guard Olivia Askin’s first collegiate points via a three-pointer in the final minutes.