By Joe Barone -- STAFF WRITER
It was the one that got away. A remarkable 20-point comeback for the Hofstra Pride women’s basketball team quickly turned sour as they dropped a Sunday afternoon contest to the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens, 54-47.
The Pride falls to 19-7 and 10-5 in CAA play while Delaware improves to 14-12 and 9-6 in the conference.
Hofstra needs one more win to achieve two consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in their Division I era.
The first half proved to be nightmarish for Hofstra, as they struggled to get anything going offensively and defensively.
The Blue Hens noticed Hofstra’s blatant gaffes and capitalized in every way possible.
Both teams opened up the game with matching buckets. They dueled and found themselves knotted at 10.
Early scores from Ashunae Durant, Anjie White, Sandra Dongmo and Aleana Leon, making her first start in place of the injured Kelly Loftus, masked the Pride’s inconsistencies shooting from around the perimeter.
“Aleana gives us everything,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. “She is such a spark and is so awesome to have on the floor for us.”
That spark provided nine points and four boards in 33 minutes played.
Leon was the lone bright spot in a first half Hofstra would love to forget.
With each open shooting opportunity Hofstra missed, the Blue Hens would respond.
The scoreboard reflected the Pride’s inefficiencies as Delaware shot nearly 52 percent from the field and converted half of their attempted three-pointers to build a powerful 36-16 lead into halftime.
Leading the way for Delaware were Courtni Green, Hannah Friend and Nicole Enabosi, causing havoc for a Hofstra defense that seemed lost the entire afternoon.
But back came the Pride. Showing some resiliency and fight, Hofstra found its game and began to convert on shots from around the court. A 15-2 run capped by a Krystal Luciano three-pointer from well beyond the arc trimmed Delaware’s lead to seven, 38-31, with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
After an ice-cold start, Luciano turned up the heat and notched 10 points in the second half.
A comeback was in order. At halftime, the Pride discussed what went wrong and they made the necessary adjustments to get Delaware doubting themselves.
“I’m beyond proud that we shot 53-percent in the third [quarter],” said Coach Kilburn-Steveskey. “We talked about it and dug ourselves back into the game in the second half, but it is unfortunate we played as poorly as we did in the first.”
After Green had a rare miss on a three-pointer, Darius Faulk and Dongmo teamed up with six minutes remaining in the game to rebound and find Durant for the game-tying jumper, 43-43.
That would be the closest the Pride would get as the game continued to unravel.
Green continued to bury shot after shot, one being a three-pointer with 58 seconds remaining to secure a four-point lead for the Blue Hens. Delaware’s leading scorer finished with 19 points and shot 4-6 from three-ball territory.
The Blue Hens took a page from Hofstra’s book as their depth surprisingly proved to be too much for the Pride to handle.
Eight out of Delaware’s nine players touched the score sheet in points while Hofstra’s reliable bench of Asia Jackson, Jakelle King-Gilchrist, Sandra Dongmo and Olivia Askin teamed up for just two points and 10 boards.
“That is not what we are,” said Coach Kilburn-Steveskey. “We’ve got to have that championship mentality and be able to make shots in pressure situations. We have to play four great quarters and take care of the ball.”
The Pride will get a chance to play four great quarters against the Drexel Dragons at the Mack Sports Complex on Friday at 7 p.m.