By Kevin Carroll -- SPORTS EDITOR The Hofstra women’s basketball team opened up WNIT play in tremendous fashion, stomping the Harvard Crimson 76-50 in a first-round matchup on Thursday night at the Mack Sports Complex.
After a disappointing loss in last week’s CAA Tournament, the Pride was gifted another chance to play basketball this season, and the team certainly seized the opportunity, completely dominating the game on both ends of the floor from start to finish.
“I’m just really proud of the team effort today,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey after the win. “We battle with them [Harvard] a lot, so it’s nice to finally get that win.”
Darius Faulk led the way for the pride with one of the most impressive games of her Hofstra career, with a final statline of 19 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds, just one shy of a triple-double, a near-mythical feat in women’s hoops.
“We just had to come out and play hard, because we knew Harvard was going to come out and play hard,” said Faulk. Faulk was the center of a very balanced Hofstra attack, with four of the five starters scoring in double figures. Jakelle King-Gilchrist had 18 points, Aleana Leon had 11 points and 11 boards, and Ashunae Durant had 12 points before leaving the game early in the third quarter with an injury that will be undoubtedly be a huge blow for the Pride moving forward.
Durant took a hard shot while battling under the basket, and went down to the floor in obvious distress. After a long time spent down on the floor, Durant was helped off the floor, and did not return.
As a team, the Pride shot 52.5 percent from the floor, and a very impressive 42.9 percent from deep, despite having scorers like Kelly Loftus, Krystal Luciano, and Asia Jackson in street clothes for the game.
However, the defensive end of the floor was where the Pride truly took over the game, holding one of the Ivy League’s top scoring offenses to just 50 points, on a dismal 26 percent shooting from the field.
The Crimson’s three-point offense, a large part of its success throughout the season, was virtually nonexistent in the first half, and the threes only began to fall for Harvard after the game was well out of reach.
Hofstra took command of the game from the early going, taking a 8-6 lead early in the first quarter on a pair of free throws from Anjie White, and never looking back, holding the lead for the rest of the game.
In fact, after a three-pointer from Harvard’s Sydney Skinner at the 6:59 mark of the first quarter, Hofstra held the Crimson offense without a single point for the remainder of the quarter, riding a 18-0 run to the buzzer, and holding a commanding 22-6 lead at the end of the first.
That lead would balloon to as much as 23 in the second quarter, as Hofstra took it to Harvard on both ends of the floor. By halftime, Hofstra was up 41-19, and showed no signs of slowing down.
But slow down they did, however briefly. After Durant’s injury, Harvard was able to cut the lead to 15 points midway through the third. The Pride looked shellshocked, missing open looks and getting beat down the floor on defense, leading to easy layups in transition for the Crimson.
“They just rallied…I’m sure they thought they smelled a little bit of blood right there,” said Kilburn-Steveskey.
That brief spurt was the Crimson’s dying gasp, however, as the Pride was able to push its lead back to 20 points, heading into the final quarter with an insurmountable 58-38 lead.
Harvard knocked down a couple shots in the final quarter, but it was too little, too late, as Hofstra dwindled the clock down. In the end, a bucket from Sandra Dongmo extended Hofstra’s lead to 76-50 with just 27 seconds left, and that’s where it would end, as Hofstra won in commanding fashion to move on in the WNIT.
“They really proved to themselves what they could do,” said Kilburn-Steveskey.
For Harvard, AnnMarie Healy led the way with 10 points, and Kit Metoyer added nine points, all from beyond the arc.
Hofstra won’t have much time to rest, heading down to Philly for a Saturday evening showdown with Villanova University. The Wildcats knocked off Liberty University 67-51 on Thursday to advance to the second round.
Tip-off from the Pavilion is set for 6 p.m.