College basketball season is here. Last time we saw the Hofstra women’s team, it was on the heels of a wildly successful run to the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). The Pride knocked off major-conference foes like Villanova and Virginia before succumbing to Florida Gulf Coast.
Now, we’ve finally got Hofstra basketball to get excited about then. The Pride opens up the 2016-17 season tonight at 5 p.m., as part of a doubleheader at the Mack Sports Complex with the men’s team, who will play at 7 p.m.
First up on the docket for Hofstra is the visiting Red Foxes from Marist College.
Marist finished right at .500 last year with a 16-16 record, but posted an impressive 14-6 record in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). The Red Foxes ran to the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament, falling to Iona College.
One of those non-conference losses came at the hands of the Pride, who traveled up to Poughkeepsie and eked out a 71-67 victory behind 20 points from the now-departed Darius Faulk.
The bad news for the Red Foxes? The two players that dominated the statsheet for most of the year last season, Tori Jarosz and Sydney Coffey, are gone. Both players averaged over 15 points per game last year, and Jarosz also averaged over 12 rebounds per game.
The two combined to lead Marist in scoring in all but two games last season, and those two games were both early in the season. Down the stretch, it was clear to see who the Red Foxes were comfortable giving the ball to, and both of those options are no longer there for head coach Brian Giorgis, in his 14th year at the helm of the Red Foxes.
So what does Marist do now? Replacing Jarosz’s output on the boards may be difficult. The second leading rebounder on the team was Maura Fitzpatrick averaging around four boards a game as a freshman. After her, you look to junior Allie Clement, who pulled in just a scant 2.8 rebounds a game.
The Red Foxes will most likely look to size off of last year’s bench to fill the big void left under the bucket. Underclassmen like Lovísa Björt Henningsdóttir and Morgan Bartner both stand 6-foot-2, and although neither saw a huge amount of minutes last year, they both played in just about every game and do have a decent amount of experience.
Marist does return its three other majority starters, minus Jarosz and Coffey: Fitzpatrick, Allie Clement and Claire Oberdorf.
Fitzpatrick will be most likely, in my opinion, to give the Pride matchup troubles. A 5-foot-11 guard, she outsizes all of the guards in the Hofstra backcourt, and she could stretch the floor and cause trouble for the Hofstra defense, who lost a terrific perimeter defender in Darius Faulk, and a terrific rim protector in Anjie White.
Clement and Oberdorf could both shoot the basketball from deep, and if the Pride decide to clue in too much on Fitzpatrick out there, these two may be able to get their looks.
Now, it’s just the first game of the year for both of these teams. Hofstra and Marist could come out of the gate looking starkly different than what anyone could have projected.
But Hofstra’ rebounding presence, especially with Ashunae Durant anchoring the low block, may just be too much for the Red Foxes to handle. Add in the expected shooting presence that the Pride project to have from the crop of freshmen that Krista Kilburn-Steveskey brought in, and Marist will be hard-pressed to contain it all.