Work to be done in order for Pride to contend in CAA
With the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) schedule just about halfway over, and with the Hofstra women’s basketball team gearing up for the final stretch toward the conference tournament in March, it’s clear that there are still plenty of obstacles in the way of the Pride as they look to make a play for the program’s first-ever CAA championship.
Yes, there have been some flashes of greatness out of the Hofstra team this season.
For proof of that, look back to an early-season win over Wake Forest University, an opponent out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), one of the biggest conferences in the sport. More recently, Hofstra’s handling of one of the CAA’s premier offenses in the College of William & Mary back in mid-January looked to be a promising sign for this team’s future.
But as the Pride edge just past the halfway point in conference play, they sit at No. 7 in the CAA. They have been mired in a slump over the last few games, dropping four in a row and falling below .500, most recently losing to a UNCW team that had previously been winless in CAA competition.
Seventh place undoubtedly sounds familiar to this team; it’s where Hofstra was picked to finish in the CAA preseason polls, which were released in November.
Many on the team saw this prediction as a slight, but if they want to prove the voters wrong, then these next seven games will be critical.
It doesn’t help that Hofstra has been struck with a potentially catastrophic blow to its starting five, with the absence of star forward Ashunae Durant from the floor in Hofstra’s last three games.
Durant leads the team in both points and rebounds, and on a team that struggles in both of those categories, her presence has been crucial for the Pride this season.
Without Durant, Hofstra has a hole to fill on both ends of the court, and so far, they have done so in the form of transfer forward Mikiyah Croskey.
Croskey, along with point guard Boogie Brozoski, became eligible to play back in December, and she entered the starting lineup for the first time in Hofstra’s game against James Madison University on Jan. 26. She scored 18 points in that contest, albeit in a 73-56 loss to the conference-leading Dukes.
It will be imperative that Croskey continues scoring, as the Pride may not be able to stay afloat in the CAA otherwise. Hofstra is currently second-to-last in the conference in scoring, averaging just under 60 points per game.
In these last three games, the Pride have been held to just 56 points or less.
Head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey’s teams are typically predicated on strong defense, and this year is no exception, but it may not matter without some sort of boost in offensive production.
There’s no doubt that Hofstra has the personnel to put up points.
Since her debut in January, Brozoski has been superb at the point, averaging just over 10 points a game. Aleana Leon, while also being hampered by injury in recent weeks, is scoring just a shade under 10 points per game, and her energy on defense and off the glass is evident.
Perhaps Hofstra’s biggest revelation this year has been the hot hand of senior Olivia Askin.
While being slightly off the last couple games, Askin has shown time and time again this year that she’s a threat to drop five or six three-balls on a nightly basis, and with some weak three-point defenses in Elon University and Towson University left on the schedule, Askin could be a huge factor down the stretch.
The Pride also have a competent scorer in E’Lexus Davis off the bench, but after her, the bench gets a little thinner. Sandra Karsten has played some meaningful minutes, but Kilburn-Steveskey has shown a tendency to keep the rotation pretty small.
Even without Durant, the Pride only put seven different players on the floor in last Sunday’s loss to William & Mary.
Without too many different options, the scorers that Hofstra does put on the court are going to have to find a way to make up for the loss of Durant.
Hofstra has only lost once this season in games where the team has scored at least 60 points. That should be a magic number for the Pride going forward this year.
This defense is as stingy as ever and will keep most opponents right around that 60-point number, keeping them in games.
Hofstra is averaging right around that mark, but is trending away from that number in recent weeks, with only eight games left to get back on track.
Next up for the Pride is a matchup with Towson on Friday, Feb. 9.
The Tigers are one spot lower than Hofstra in the CAA standings, and this contest could very well serve as a boost for a Hofstra team that could definitely use a little bit of momentum.
The top of the CAA is particularly formidable this season, with James Madison still unbeaten at 9-0, and Drexel University and the University of Delaware are going to be very tough outs in the CAA tourney in March.
Hofstra has played each of these teams tight this season. Despite where they sit in the standings, the Pride aren’t as far away from the top teams as their record might suggest.
In a one-game situation in March, anything could happen.
But if Hofstra wants to make a run and shock the CAA, they’re going to need some offensive firepower to do it.