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Cuzic’s career night not enough for women's basketball in loss

Cuzic’s career night not enough for women's basketball in loss

The Hofstra women’s basketball team came up just short in Friday night’s matchup, falling 65-63 to Columbia University. Senior Sica Cuzic led the team with 18 points and 14 rebounds on the night – both career highs.

The Pride trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half. However, that was all forgotten with five minutes to go in the game when senior Boogie Brozoski nailed a three-pointer and then dropped a behind-the-back assist to sophomore Jaylen Hines to give Hofstra their first lead since the first quarter, 53-52.

For the final five minutes, the two teams were neck-and-neck. Junior Ana Hernandez Gil banked in a three-pointer to bring Hofstra within two points with 24 seconds remaining, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. After one free throw from Columbia, Hernandez Gil was unable to connect on what would have been the game-tying three with just six seconds left on the clock. Columbia hit their next to free throws to seal the win.

Until late in the game, the Pride’s offense struggled mightily. Following a first half in which they shot 36 percent, Hofstra was held to eight total points in the third quarter, making just three of their 20 attempted shots. The quarter also included a 0-for-7 mark from the 3-point line.

Inconsistent calls made by referees left both benches visibly frustrated and disrupted the rhythm of the game. Over the course of the game, 49 fouls were called between the two teams.

“It does affect the flow. We can’t control it,,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. “You’ve got all these fans out here [and] we’re not scoring any points and they’re calling every foul … it’s just not fun.”

The Pride led for the majority of the first quarter until Columbia found their groove offensively and turned Hofstra’s lead into a nine-point deficit by the midpoint of the second quarter. Then Cuzic took control over the rest of the half, scoring eight of Hofstra’s final 12 points to cut the Columbia lead to 36-32 at halftime.

Despite their earlier struggles, Kilburn-Steveskey was proud of how her team responded down the stretch to almost pull off the win.

“They executed down that little stretch right there and got a great look,” she said. “You feel good about that … you always feel good when you get a shot off.”

Hofstra’s top scoring threat, Brozoski, struggled to find her shot before making big plays during crunch time. After scoring the Pride’s first six points of the game, Brozoski did not hit another field goal until that three-pointer with 5:55 to go in the fourth quarter. She finished the game with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

Nevertheless, Brozoski was on the floor for all but seven minutes of the game and found other important ways to help her team.

“I pick[ed] it up defensively. Just because my shot isn’t falling doesn’t mean that we can’t win the game,” she said. “I rely on my other teammates when it comes to that. This is just a learning experience.”

One of those teammates that Hofstra relied on was Cuzic. She stepped up with 18 points to keep her team in the game while the offense struggled and also anchored the team on defense with 14 rebounds.

“We have a lot of people who can do a lot of [different] things,” Cuzic said. “I feel like I’m one who can also help and do [those] things … so I was just doing my job.”

Hernandez Gil, who is still trying to find her groove after missing the 2017-18 due to injury, played just seven minutes in the loss. The junior guard hit only one of the seven three-pointers she put up – the one kept the Pride within striking distance late in the game.

Hines and junior guard Petja Krupenko each notched nine points to help balance Hofstra’s offensive attack. Krupenko also distributed a career-high five assists to lead the team.

With the loss, Hofstra falls to 1-1 on the young season while Columbia is now 1-0. The Pride next takes on Stony Brook University in the “Battle of Long Island” at Stony Brook on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

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