By Joe Barone – STAFF WRITER The Hofstra Pride (3-0) packed their bags to play their first road game of the season at American University.
Ashunae Durant’s third consecutive double-double performance combined with Kelly Loftus and Krystal Luciano’s offensive outburst of 13 points each proved to be enough for Hofstra to squeak past the American Eagles on Thursday evening, 60-51.
One can say this was the Pride’s best game of the season despite netting just 60 points. They bounced back after a slow start and truly put a grasp on the outcome of the game.
“It is nice to be 3-0, but we have a lot of work to do,” said head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey after the win. “Not everyone is playing their best, but we are still coming out on top.”
That is the most promising sign a Hofstra fan can take from this game. While the Pride has endured some close outcomes, they sit on top of the conference with a perfect record through the first three games.
While American University (0-3) is the defending Patriot League champion but has not found consistency in their matchups. This opened the door for Hofstra to take advantage of a team while they are down.
After American opened up the scoring, the Pride took control with 12 consecutive points. Kelly Loftus looked unbeatable early as she posted seven of her 13 points on that early run.
The blue and gold finished the opening frame with a 15-8 advantage due in large part to Krystal Luciano’s two three-pointers. She finished with eight assists and three boards.
“[Luciano] had a great game,”Kilburn-Steveskey said. “She is like another coach on the floor.”
Luciano’s role on the Pride roster is more than just a playmaker. She is one of the primary leaders on the team who wears her heart on her sleeve. While the names of Durant and Loftus receive the proper attention, it is Luciano who continuously remains under the radar playing a pivotal role in each game.
The second quarter followed the same script as the opening 10 minutes. Although the Eagles came within three, 19-16, halfway through, Hofstra found a way to end further momentum by finishing the half on a 15-4 surge ultimately taking a 34-20 lead into the break.
Off the bench, Asia Jackson provided a clutch three-pointer which started the final run of the first half. Durant played a huge role as well as she added nine of her total 18 points in the second quarter. She also finished with 14 rebounds.
The closest deficit American had over the final two frames was seven points. It was a true coming out party for Hofstra’s defense as the only time they trailed was in the first 30-seconds of the game, down 2-0.
They discovered the dagger, which coach Kilburn-Steveskey always preaches about, to put into American’s hearts by increasing the lead to 16, 56-40, with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Hofstra’s lead proved to be enough even with the Eagles flying hard towards the end.
“The better we get, the more consistency we will find,” Kilburn-Steveskey said.
Once Anjie White pushes out of her early-season slump, they will take off. “She’s a phenomenal player, we have to get her out of this,” Coach Kilburn-Steveskey said.
For now, the team will rely on their top guns – Durant, Loftus, Luciano and Darius Faulk – while receiving timely scoring and defense from their bench – Jackson and Jakelle King-Gilchrist.
There is no panicking with this group of women. Nor should there be. They are not at their best however for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, the Pride has a perfect record after three games.
Action resumes on Tuesday at 7 p.m. when they continue their road-trip against Fairfield. Hofstra will have their eyes set on their first 4-0 start since the 1997-98 campaign.