By Kevin Carroll -- SPORTS EDITOR On Thursday night in Hempstead, the Hofstra women’s basketball team kept its team alive in a big way, running all over Harvard on the way to a 76-50 victory over the Crimson in the first round of the WNIT.
Now, the Pride travels down to the City of Brotherly Love for its next contest, a showdown with Villanova at the Pavilion in Philadelphia. The Wildcats earned a spot in the second round by defeating Liberty University 67-51 in an opening-round matchup on Thursday.
With James Madison falling in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and Drexel and Elon both losing first-round matchups in the WNIT, the Hofstra women's hoops team is the last team from the CAA still playing this season.
Nova comes into today’s contest with a record of 20-11, but the Wildcats have proven to be tough to beat on their home floor, boasting a 10-3 record at the Pavilion this season. The Wildcats had two opponents in common with Hofstra this season, St. Joseph’s and Drexel. Nova beat both of those teams once, while Hofstra beat St. Joe’s and split two games with Drexel.
Hofstra took the court on Thursday night extremely short-handed, with guards Krystal Luciano, Kelly Loftus and Asia Jackson not suiting up for the game against Harvard. It didn’t really seem to matter, as Hofstra rolled through Harvard, but the Pride was dealt another potentially huge blow in the second half, losing Ashunae Durant to injury.
Whether or not any of these players will be able to play today remains to be seen, but the lack of depth for the Pride in the wake of all these injuries has never been more noticeable.
Hofstra will have to look for senior guard to Darius Faulk to shoulder a lot of the offensive load. Faulk was one rebound shy of a triple-double in Thursday’s win over Harvard. Aleana Leon and Jakelle King-Gilchrist, two players that were accustomed to coming in off the bench, both started on Thursday, and both scored over 10 points.
The Pride will need to match, if not improve on, that sort of production on Saturday.
The Wildcats, like Harvard, love to shoot the deep ball. Nova has shot a staggering 864 threes this season, shooting at a 31 percent clip from beyond the arc.
Caroline Coyer led the way for the Wildcats this season, averaging 14 points per game, and earning a first-team All-Big East nod this season. Alex Louin adds 11.1 ppg, and Adriana Hahn averages just over 10 ppg, a lot of which came via the three-pointer.
Living and dying at the three-point line has its drawbacks, however, and the Wildcats have found that out this season, sitting at the middle or even the bottom of the Big East in most offensive categories. The Wildcats also have trouble rebounding the basketball, which is a big edge for Hofstra, even if Durant isn’t on the floor. Anjie White and Sandra Dongmo will prove to be more than a match for the Nova bigs.
This one’s going to be a defensive showdown, with Nova boasting the Big East’s top scoring defense, holding opponents to just 57.2 points per game this season. Hofstra’s defense has been staunch all year, and is coming off arguably its best performance of the season, holding a potent Harvard offense to just 50 points.
A lot of today’s contest will hinge on who suits up for Hofstra. We’ve already seen players off the bench step up and elevate their game to keep the Pride afloat, but if Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey doesn’t have Loftus, Luciano, Jackson, and now Durant at her disposal, the team may not have enough in the tank to move on.
But if Hofstra could beat the injury bug today, and get production from everyone on the court, then there is no reason why Hofstra couldn’t knock off the big dogs from the Big East, and keep the season alive.