By Mike Rudin – SPORTS EDITOR
Coming into Friday’s matchup against UNCW, it was Hofstra women’s basketball player Darius Faulk’s 22nd birthday. By the end, she treated herself with the limelight in front of the Pride Faithful, compiling a career-high 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists en route to the Pride’s 62-38 win over the Seahawks.
“I felt like they couldn’t guard me on the dribble,” Faulk said after the game. “I was using my right hand more when they were trying to force me right so being able to use both sides of the floor helped me a lot.”
Her career best scoring also tied a season-high for Hofstra. The only other time a Pride player scored 26 points was Kelly Loftus back on Nov. 17 against Stony Brook.
Aleana Leon also had a career night as well coming off the bench. Leon scored a career-high 10 points – all in the third quarter – and grabbed five rebounds during her 23 minutes on the court.
The win over their Colonial Athletic Association rival keeps the Pride in second place within the CAA standings on even keel with Drexel.
“We just really kept punching and they did a really great job tonight,” Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said about her team’s performance.
Other than a tie lasting no longer than 26 seconds within the opening minute, Hofstra took control and stayed ahead for the rest of the game.
Due to the lack of depth from UNCW and Kelly Loftus out due to injury for Hofstra, both teams had a similar game plan: work inside the paint.
The opening minutes started with both teams going back and forth, trying to drive inside. Faulk scored the first pair of points from the free-throw line and kept her hot hand going.
She tallied nine points alone in the first quarter which greatly helped put the Pride ahead of UNCW from the start.
But one player doesn’t make a team and Anjie White as well as Sandra Dongmo played their roles well in grabbing boards and be a strong post presence on the defensive end. Both competed hard to grab rebounds and feed it back to the offense.
Dongmo led the Pride with 11 rebounds plus added three points on the night. White exceled both offensively and defensively, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
“That’s some of the best [post ability] in the entire CAA,” Kilburn-Steveskey said. “I challenged her [Dongmo] in this game and I’m proud of her … she didn’t allow too many layups around her.”
Even when the offense hit a snag in the second quarter, Hofstra’s defense kept them ahead. Both teams evened out with nine points each in the last 10 minutes before halftime.
Hofstra and UNCW struggled trying to shoot outside the arc in first half. No player from either team hit a three in the first quarter and in the midst of the second.
UNCW’s Jasmine Steele made the first three-pointer and Faulk made the first Hofstra three. The Pride ended up 2-for-15 beyond the arc while the Seahawks went 1-for-7.
UNCW’s roster was paper thin coming into the game with six players so Hofstra used their depth to stifle any efforts by the Seahawks. By the second half, fatigue started slowly crept into UNCW’s performance.
Hofstra took the second half by storm with a strong third quarter performance. The Pride outscored the Seahawks 16-5 which propelled and maintained Hofstra’s lead in double digits.
The duo of Faulk and Leon fueled Hofstra’s success in the third quarter. Both usually weaved their way past the Seahawks’ defense and Faulk fed the ball to Leon. Faulk had four of her assists in the third quarter alone, setting up Leon’s production.
The fourth quarter was an extension of the third and the Pride killed remaining time. The highest point Hofstra led was by 27.
Hofstra improves to 19-6 overall and 10-4 in the CAA while UNCW drops to 7-18 overall and 3-11 against conference opponents.
The Pride competes this Sunday down in Delaware to battle the Fightin’ Blue Hens at 2 p.m.