All-CAA preseason first teamer Ashunae Durant wasted no time getting in gear this season, scoring a game-high 19 points on 7-11 shooting as the Hofstra women’s basketball team rolled to a 62-42 opening night victory over Marist College at the Mack Sports Complex Friday night. Ten of Durant’s points came in the first quarter. The junior also added three rebounds and three assists.
“In fifteen years of coaching basketball, you’ll certainly take a win, especially against a team that well-coached and with the experience that they [Marist] have,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey after the game.
After a very successful season in which the Pride made a run to the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), Hofstra’s opener was a resounding success, and a good first step towards yet another successful year.
Durant’s 19 points highlighted a very balanced scoring attack for the Pride. Of the 11 players that registered minutes on Friday night, nine of them made their way into the scoring column.
Senior point guard Krystal Luciano added nine points, six rebounds and six assists. She also made waves on the defensive end, blocking two shots and forcing a steal.
Defense was the story for the Pride on Friday, as it had been the story for this team all last season. Kilburn-Steveskey’s defense held the Red Foxes to just 42 points, on just an anemic 28.9 shooting percentage.
The Pride forced 19 turnovers, and stole the ball nine times.
“I was proud of our effort defensively…that was a defensive challenge, in our home opener,“ said Kilburn-Steveskey. Hofstra went pedal-to-the-metal from the opening tip, pouring on the points in the first quarter to take a 22-8 lead.
Scoring the first points of the brand-new season was senior forward Sydni Epps. The senior from Pennsylvania knocked down a jumper just over a minute into the game to give the Pride the season’s first lead, a lead that Hofstra would not relinquish for the rest of the evening.
Durant scored 10 of her 19 points in the first quarter, knocking down four of her five attempted shots.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Hofstra on opening night.
Early foul trouble forced Luciano and Aleana Leon to the bench for a good chunk of the second quarter. Without the presence of two veterans, Kilburn-Steveskey went to the bench, sending out freshmen like Sandra Karsten and Ana Hernandez Gil to hold down the court.
While the contingent of freshmen played well in limited minutes, the lack of inexperience showed, as Marist was able to claw its way back. Hofstra only led by six points heading into the half.
Fouls were a common theme all throughout the evening, as the two teams combined to commit 41 team fouls in the game.
Fortunately for the Pride, Luciano and Leon returned to the game and managed to stay away from committing those costly fouls, and Hofstra was able to rebuild its lead, keeping the Red Foxes from making any sort of run throughout the second half.
“We’re still figuring out who could play with fouls, and who can’t,“ Kilburn-Steveskey said. “We have to watch our silly fouls.”
The Pride ended the game in style, coasting to the finish on a 9-0 run. As the minutes dwindled away, Hofstra’s defense continued to frustrate and smother the Marist shooters, causing three turnovers in the last minute and a half of play.
A jumper from Karsten with just nine seconds left stretched the Pride’s lead to 20, where it would stay as Hofstra would walk off the court victorious.
“Our goal was to find them [Marist] in transition, and to not give up easy threes. They felt the pressure,” Kilburn-Steveskey said.
Next up for the Pride is the “Battle of Long Island,” where Hofstra will travel out east to take on the Stony Brook Seawolves on Monday night. That game is set to tip off at 7 p.m.