By Mike Rudin – SPORTS EDITOR Hofstra women’s basketball ended up on the bitter end of a 57-56 defeat to University of Massachusetts in their first road matchup of December on Tuesday night.
To make matters worse, the Hofstra Pride fought to comeback from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter but their efforts came up short.
The Pride went up by three with 30 seconds left but UMass’ Cierra Dillard killed the comeback with a three-pointer and free throw to seal the deal.
“That was her first three … they just executed [and] absolutely executed [well]. We had a chance to seal it and be done and we just missed an opportunity,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey after the loss, regarding the last 30 seconds.
The Pride drop to a 7-2 record and that stops their previous winning streak at three games.
Free throws became a major factor in the Hofstra’s loss. The Pride ended up compiling a 53.8 percentage (14-for-26) at the charity stripe while UMass shot for 84.6 percent (11-for-13) at the free-throw line.
Once the game started, Hofstra swallowed a rough first quarter that ended up 14-3 on the scoreboard in favor of UMass.
The first two minutes of the second quarter didn’t help as the Pride’s deficit dropped to its lowest point in the game at a 15-point margin.
Yet, Hofstra was determined not to roll over and the works of Ashunae Durant and Krystal Luciano sparked a 6-0 rally that got the Pride going.
Afterwards, Kelly Loftus kept the momentum alive by scoring six points. Her back-to-back layups and pair of free throws kept Hofstra’s deficit in the single digits and by halftime the Pride found themselves down by seven.
Besides at the free-throw line, Hofstra shot less than 20 percent in the first half – 18.4 percent inside the arc and 8.3 percent for threes. Plus, Hofstra’s bench was outshot 10-2 compared to Umass’ bench.
Although, one of the positives was the Pride took the second quarter 17-13 and that trend continued in the second half.
After UMass forced a 5-0 skid, Hofstra battled back into contention with a 9-0 rally to come back to get within three points with 4:10 left in the third quarter. The Minutemen retaliated and by the end of the quarter they maintained a 39-34 lead.
After both teams exchanged points in the fourth – a free throw by Durant, a layup by Asia Jackson and a three-pointer by Loftus pulled Hofstra to their first lead of the game by one point with 5:37 left.
After the Pride stormed back, both Hofstra and UMass exchanged the lead as the clock drained. Both teams took no more than a two-point lead.
Then with 45 second left, Darius Faulk delivered a layup in the paint to grant Hofstra’s largest lead of the night by three.
Once 30 seconds came on the clock, Hofstra found themselves up 56-53 until Dillard scored the necessary four points to provide UMass the one-point win.
The biggest positives for Hofstra was Ashunae Durant who led the Pride with 16 points and she tallied nine rebounds. Jackson scored the second-most with 12 points and Loftus put up 10 on the night. Luciano scored eight points and managed four assists. Faulk led the Pride with five assists.
Sandra Dongmo had an impressive night with her team-leading 12 rebounds. Sydni Epps pulled down eight boards to contribute as one of the starting five.
Hofstra's next matchup won’t be until Dec. 20 against Marist College at 2 p.m. for their second road game of December and their second-to-last non-conference matchup of 2015-16.