By Kevin Carroll — SPORTS EDITOR
Much like the Hofstra men’s team the night before, the Pride women’s basketball team’s effort to take first place in the CAA proved to be futile, falling to James Madison 71-54 Friday night.
In a rematch from last season’s CAA Championship, the Pride (16-5, 7-3 CAA) once again found itself on the losing end against the Dukes (15-5, 8-1 CAA), who retain sole possession of first place in the conference.
“I’d be a fool not to give JMU credit,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey after the loss. “I thought we had some good moments, but it wasn’t enough.”
The Dukes were buoyed by a sensational performance from Jazmon Gwathmey, who scored a game-high 34 points, and added 13 rebounds, giving the Pride fits on the glass all night. Angela Mickens added 18 for the Dukes, 14 of those points coming in the first half.
Hofstra was led by Ashunae Durant, who scored 20 points, and shot 8-11 from the free-throw line. Kelly Loftus added 11 points, and Anjie White posted seven points and eight boards for the Pride.
It was a tale of two halves, with the Pride only facing a slim, two-point deficit heading into the break. Hofstra hung tough with the Dukes throughout the first half, never falling behind by more than seven points, and even leading JMU early in the first quarter.
The Pride kept battling throughout the second quarter, holding Gwathmey and Mickens to just four points apiece, while Durant was able to score seven to carry the Pride through the quarter. A jumper from White to cut JMU’s lead to 34-32, coupled with a defensive stop to end the quarter sent the Pride to the locker room with momentum.
But Gwathmey came alive for the Dukes in the third quarter, going 4-5 from the field, and 2-3 from beyond the arc. The Pride had no answer for the 6’2 junior, who was hitting shots seemingly at will.
” She [Gwathmey] obviously is an extremely talented one,” said Kilburn-Steveskey. ” [Gwathmey is] one of the best players in the CAA.”
On the other end of the floor, the Pride struggled to find open looks at the basket, and couldn’t match the scoring pace of the Dukes. Gwathmey hit a jumper with 17 seconds left to stretch JMU’s lead to nine, the largest of the night up to that point, making it a 56-47 game heading into the final quarter.
From there, the Dukes pulled away, pouring on the points as the Pride’s shooting woes continued. Hofstra shot just 22 percent from the field in the fourth, on 2-9 shooting. James Madison was able to effectively put the game away on the offensive glass, creating multiple second-chance opportunities on offense, as well as dwindling the clock down. When the dust settled, Hofstra found itself on the wrong end of a 71-54 final.
“Whatever our weaknesses are, whatever things we need to improve on, we have to hit them head on,” said Kilburn-Steveskey. “This is part of being a college athlete, and just part of the season.”
Hofstra returns to action this weekend, hitting the road for a three-game stretch down south, starting on Sunday against Towson. In the two teams’ first meeting this season, the Pride eked out a 64-6o victory in Hempstead. Tip-off at the Towson Center Arena is set for 1 p.m.