By Kevin Carroll — SPORTS EDITOR
A trip out west to Las Vegas for the Lady Rebel Round-Up would result in a split for the Hofstra women’s basketball team, falling to the hosting University of Nevada Las Vegas before bouncing back with a gutsy win over Wake Forest University this past weekend.
A 68-52 loss to the Lady Rebels on the tournament’s first day could have easily turned the Pride’s road trip sour, but instead Hofstra rebounded to pull out a 69-66 victory over Wake Forest, the program’s second victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) opponent in the last three seasons.
Aleana Leon would prove to have the hot hand for the Pride over the weekend, scoring 19 points in Sunday’s win over the Demon Deacons while also adding 10 and nine rebounds in the loss to UNLV on Saturday. For her efforts, Leon was named to the All-Tournament team.
“It’s nice to go back 1-1. [I’m] really proud of the team effort,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey after Sunday’s win.
Ashunae Durant would also play a big part in knocking off Wake Forest, with 18 points of her own. 10 of those points came via the free-throw line, and perhaps none bigger than the four clutch free throws Durant would hit in the last 20 seconds of the game to seal the deal and bump the Pride back to .500 early in the season.
It was a tight contest throughout, as the Pride scratched and clawed to hang in against the Demon Deacons. Hofstra was able to take the lead for good in the fourth quarter after E’Lexus Davis connected from downtown to put the Pride ahead 48-46.
This bucket came in the middle of a 10-0 Hofstra run to open up the final quarter, blowing the game open and allowing the Pride’s stingy defense to keep Wake Forest behind the rest of the way.
“We were a really strong defensive team down the stretch, and that’s what won us that game,” Kilburn-Steveskey said.
Davis ended her day on Sunday with 13 points, and the sophomore point guard has done a fine job running point for Hofstra early this season. She also had eight points and five assists against UNLV.
The Runnin’ Rebels would prove to be too much to handle in Hofstra’s tournament opener on Saturday afternoon, handing Hofstra a double-digit loss in which the Pride were playing from behind for virtually the entire game.
UNLV ran away with it in the second half, stretching a four-point halftime lead to 13 by the end of the third quarter.
The biggest factor in this contest was points in the paint, where the Lady Rebels held a 44-14 margin over the Pride, keeping Hofstra out on the perimeter and controlling the boards. In particular, Durant had a quiet day by her own standards, scoring seven points and pulling down five boards after being limited by foul trouble in the first half.
Hofstra was able to get everybody involved, with all nine members of the Pride that saw action on Saturday scoring at least two points.
The Pride will return to action on Thursday, Nov. 30 to take on Sacred Heart University at 6:30 p.m.