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OPINION: JMU poses biggest threat to Pride

By Marco Meglio -- STAFF WRITER

The Hofstra women’s basketball regular season is coming to a close with only a few games left, and the CAA Tournament in sight. Coming off a 20-13 season last year, the team has improved even more, going 19-7 with five games to go.

The Pride has been led by guard Kelly Loftus and forward Ashunae Durant who have averaged 13 and 11.9 points per game, respectively. The defense has been the main story all year, as Hofstra has held teams to shoot under 37 percent from the field. The big question is whether the Pride has enough to win the CAA Tournament, especially with a recent injury to Loftus.

A year after suffering a heartbreaking CAA title game loss, the Pride is back in the same situation. At the top of the conference standings sits James Madison. The Dukes are having another impressive season, going 18-5, along with an 11-1 mark in conference play.

Scoring comes easy for James Madison, with three capable scorers at its disposal. The main scorer, Jazmon Gwathmey, averages just above 21 points per game. In two meetings with the Pride, Gwathmey has absolutely torched Hofstra, with 20 and 34 point performances to lead her team to victories. If Hofstra wants to have any chance of winning the CAA title, the defense will have to shut down Gwathmey for the entire game.

Along with Gwathmey as the main leader, the Dukes surely have other capable scorers. Guards Ashley Perez and Angela Mickens both hold solid averages of 15.3 and 11.6 points per game. It will be hard to contain all three but Hofstra will definitely need to keep their focus on them. In addition – after those three – the Dukes do not have a single scorer that averages above six points per game.

The Pride has faced James Madison twice this year and lost both games, 71-54 and 57-42. In the first game, poor shooting and a late second half surge allowed James Madison to get the win. The Pride shot a lousy 35 percent, along with just 21 percent from beyond the arc. Gwathmey had 34 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks, easily the player of the game. A 6-foot-2-inch guard, she battled and gained position for every rebound that game. In total, the Pride was outrebounded by 11 and gave up 17 second-chance points, the difference maker in that game.

In the second game, the Pride had similar issues shooting the ball. The suffocating defense of JMU allowed Hofstra to shoot just 29 percent while going 2-18 from beyond the arc and scoring only five points in the fourth quarter. Loftus had one of her worst games of the season, shooting 0-8 from the field and missing all of her five three-point shots.

It is expected that Hofstra will meet up with the Dukes in the CAA final, and if that does happen, the team will have to make sure it keys in on a few things. First, stop Gwathmey. She has terrorized the Pride in both games they played and is easily the best scorer the Dukes have.

Secondly, rebound the basketball. The Pride has been outrebounded by at least 10 in both losses. Last but not least, shoot at least 40 percent from beyond the arc. In both blowout losses, the Pride had weak shooting from downtown. If they can get some shots to fall, gain momentum and make stops on defense, the CAA title will be brought home by the Pride.

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