By Joe Barone -- STAFF WRITER It was not supposed to end like this. With so many expectations, Hofstra should have been playing more basketball games in Upper Marlboro, Maryland this past weekend. Instead, the team sits at home contemplating what could have been.
By now, we all know the script. After defeating the Northeastern Huskies twice in the regular season by a combined score of 146-114, the Pride was shockingly upset in the opening game of the CAA tournament, where they finished 65-54. It ended its season, temporarily, as an NIT bid certainly awaits.
That, of course, is not what this team wanted. Their goal was to reach the CAA championship and earn the right to play in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they will have to settle with these results and focus on a challenging NIT schedule ahead.
The women’s basketball team opened up this season preaching chemistry, fight , and resiliency. Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey implemented a game plan that perfectly suited these ladies’ potentials. For most of the season, chemistry, fight, and resiliency were not an issue. We watched how it took a full effort each game and together we marveled about the endless possibilities this team could accomplish when playing as a cohesive group.
That was not the case on Thursday evening as the ladies were noticeably off their game. Careless passes sailed over each other’s heads. Easy layups and jump shots were surprisingly missed. The Pride was playing a game that did not represent who it was, and when the team found itself trailing big, Hofstra was forced out of their comfort zone.
It was odd. At the team breakfast, these ladies were chomping at the bit, getting ready to defeat the Huskies again.
I noticed a certain swagger to this team. They were loose and energetic. They cracked jokes with the media and their teammates. And , they certainly knew they were better than the Huskies. This team had it in them to have a long postseason run. But between that breakfast and the pregame shoot-around at 6 p.m., something went wrong.
We just do not know what.
From tip-off, there was an unfamiliar feeling in the building. Sure, Darius Faulk tied the game at 2 in the opening three minutes. But, that came after several missed buckets from Krystal Luciano, Jakelle King-Gilchrist, and Anjie White. It was also surrounded by head-scratching turnovers and costly fouls that ultimately plagued the team the entire night.
Everyone in attendance saw it.
“We got outhustled and out-executed,” said Coach Kilburn-Steveskey. “We didn’t have good leadership and didn’t have that leadership when it was going down. Everyone has to help when the ship has a little bit of a hole in it.”
The coach was right.
At times, the leadership was not there from their veterans. When things are not working, you need those leaders to step up and take control of the situation.
It looked as if, when Northeastern took Hofstra out of the game early, some of the ladies could not keep their emotions in check. In the postseason, that cannot happen. Leads come and go in a blink of an eye. Northeastern snagged a 10-0 run in the first quarter as quickly as Hofstra could have had it back.
It was uncharacteristic. There was no punch back until Ashunae Durant thought enough was enough and went off in the final half of action. Granted, this team took a 28-point deficit and sliced it to a 10-point game, their confidence took a major blow to the chest when Northeastern converted shot after shot adding to their lead.
It is a shame. This team could have had something special. Instead, they “will have to learn from this and come back stronger next season,” as Ashunae Durant said after the debacle.
Make no mistake, this team has a bright future ahead. But, the future could have been now.