Kevin Carroll - Staff Writer Hofstra freshman phenom Ashunae Durant dropped a career-high 20 points for the Pride en route to a 62-47 victory over the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders on Tuesday evening to improve to 6-3 on the season.
It was a career night for Durant, who added nine total rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, to her game-high point total. Tuesday’s win marks the Pride’s third win in a row.
Both teams got out to a sluggish start offensively, as turnovers and good defense dominated the first couple minutes of the half. The Hofstra defense operated very efficiently and held NJIT without a field goal for the first six and a half minutes of the game. Sophomore Kelly Loftus opened the floodgates for the Pride to create some separation, despite the team's momentarily offensive struggles in the beginning of the game.
Loftus connecting on her first three attempts from behind the arc to open up a 15-3 lead on the Highlanders. Loftus hit five three-pointers total, and finished the game with 15 points. As the first half continued, the Pride kept the Highlanders at arm’s length, unable to mount any sort of comeback, as the NJIT shooters had a tough night, shooting just over 30% from the field, and only 18% from the three-point line. The Pride held the momentum firmly throughout the first half, and cruised into halftime with a 32-14 lead over NJIT.
The second half featured a bit more grit and competitiveness from the Highlanders, as they started to hit some shots, but Hofstra’s lead that was built in the first half would prove to be insurmountable. Loftus and Durant both continued to produce and they sparked the Pride’s second-half performance. Durant was able to score at will, whether it be on a jump-shot, on the free-throw line or taking it straight to the hoop for a layup, Durant was 6-7 in the second half on the night.
Free-throw woes plagued Hofstra in some of their earlier contests, but that issue was nowhere to be seen in this game, as the team shot an impressive 84% from the charity stripe. The large lead allowed Coach Kilburn-Steveskey to go deep into the rotation, and get everyone a chance to go on the floor. In the end, a NJIT rally fell short, as the Pride left Newark with a 15-point victory.
After the game, Coach Kilburn-Steveskey had some praise, and some critique, for her team’s first-half performance. “[I’m] extremely happy about how we came out so aggressively, and really put it on them at the beginning, and we’ve just got to have better sustainability. We started missing some gimmes, and some opportunities on the other end, but I’m certainly proud, proud to be 6-3, and proud to be coaching this team.”
For the Pride, in addition to the stellar performances from Durant and Loftus, Darius Faulk had ten assists, seven of them coming in the first half. Faulk is the first Hofstra player to have double-digit assists since November of last season. She also had six points, as did the center Elo Efederioka. For the Highlanders, Martina Matejcikova shot nineteen points.
Next up for the Pride is a marquee matchup with the ACC’s Boston College, on December 21st, at noon at the Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.