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Fourth quarter rally propels Hofstra past Massachusetts

The Hofstra women’s basketball team overcame a tough first half to beat the University of Massachusetts 71-55 in Wednesday night’s matchup. The Pride came back from a 12-point deficit, the largest one they have overcome so far this season. “Just proud of this team sticking together…tonight was just a big teamwork,” head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said.

The first half looked grim for the Pride. UMass was awarded a total of 16 free throws between the first and second quarters, while Hofstra was only given three. The Minutewomen had more opportunity to earn more points than the Pride from just the free throws.

The Hofstra players had difficulty putting the ball in as well. In the first quarter the Pride sunk only 28.6% of their shots—and in the second it dropped to 26.7%. UMass put it in nearly twice as often, 42.9% in the first period and 46.2% in the second.

“We weren’t taking quality shots and then that whole thing was spiraling,” Kilburn-Steveskey said. At the end of the first half, the Minutewomen held a ten point lead over the Pride, 33-23. The talk given by Kilburn-Steveskey in the locker room at halftime provided the spark that caused a momentum shift in the second half.

“I’ll just stop in the middle of my sentence and just say… ‘So you think you’re gonna win this game?’ and they all just screamed out, there was absolutely no drop, ‘Yes we can,’” she said. In the first four minutes of play after halftime, Hofstra cut Massachusetts' lead from 10 points down to just three. Junior Aleana Leon put in a layup and freshman Sandra Karsten nailed a three pointer just one minute into the period. The Pride continued to score—Karsten hit a jumper and Sydni Epps added a layup—before UMass called a timeout.

The Minutewomen seemed to adapt to the Pride’s more aggressive play and stretched their lead to 45-33. UMass capitalized on free throw opportunities once again. Junior Maggie Mulligan and freshman Ryan Holder racked up four points from free throws alone.

The Pride began to close the gap. Senior Krystal Luciano and junior Olivia Askin both sunk three pointers a minute apart.

Massachusetts kept the same five players on the court for most of the match while Hofstra rotated players on and off. The lack of depth for the visitors proved to be detrimental.

“We knew we had the numbers on our side and some really talented kids on our side…so this is how you win games, is giving people more minutes,” Kilburn-Steveskey said.

In the final period Hofstra really turned up the pressure on UMass. Freshman Ana Hernandez Gil continued to score by way of the three—making four in the period. Her second three got the crowd on its feet, but it was the third that gave Hofstra the lead.

“When I’m shooting I don’t think about it…if it goes in it goes in,” said Hernandez Gil on shooting 6-10 in the matchup.

In conjunction with making the shots, the Pride defense stepped up their game as well. Senior Sandra Dongmo and junior Ashunae Durant were quick to knock away the Minutewomen’s shots. Durant and Leon snatched the ball away from UMass often as well. Collectively the team racked up 18 rebounds in the second half.

The heightened defense stopped the Minutewomen from scoring for five minutes while the Pride continued to put the ball through the net.

With 20 seconds left, Leon stole the ball and dribbled down the court to sink an uncontested layup. Another quick steal and score by Durant ended the game and gave Hofstra their largest lead of the night of 16 points.

Hernandez Gil scored a season-high 18 points, while Leon was close behind with 14. Durant and Dongmo followed with 10 points each, and Luciano led the team in assists with 10 this match. Hofstra’s record now sits at 5-3 while UMass is 4-5 for the season.

The Pride hits the court again this Saturday to face off against American University. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m in the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex.

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