Upper Marlboro, MD - Junior guard Jael Pena had 14 points and four assists and sophomore forward Shante Evans added 17 points and eight rebounds, but it wasn't enough as Virginia Commonwealth took over midway through the second half and defeated Hofstra, 87-76, in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship on Friday afternoon at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, MD.
The loss drops Hofstra's record to 19-12 this season, while VCU improves to 19-10 and advances to face top-seeded James Madison in the semifinals on Saturday.
Hofstra, which was the No. 5 seed in the tournament, will now await a possible postseason bid when they are announced next Monday night.
VCU got off to a hot start in the contest as the Rams scored the first ten points of the game as Andrea Barbour scored six points during the game-opening run. Junior guard Candice Bellocchio would end the run with a pair of free throws at the 16:28 mark and a 11-4 Pride run cut the deficit to 14-11 after freshman guard Kate Loper drained a three-pointer with 13:53 remaining before intermission.
The Rams would push the lead back to double digits as shortly thereafter as they answered with a 15-6 run of their own and led 29-17 following a jumper from Chelsea Snyder with 9:58 to play.
Trailing 34-22 with just over nine minutes left in the opening stanza Hofstra began to close the gap as they held the high-scoring Rams to seven points over an eight-minute stretch to cut the deficit to two, 41-39, after a steal and layup from Pena. The run in all would be 17-7 in favor of the Pride as Pena led the way with six points during the rally.
VCU took a 43-39 lead into the halftime break as Courtney Hurt scored the final basket of the half with 33 ticks left on the clock.
Pena was a huge spark in the first half as she totaled eight points, three assists and two steals, while Evans and Loper joined her with eight points as well.
Hofstra would turn the tables on VCU to start the second half as the Pride opened the second stanza on a 13-5 run to take its first lead of the contest after a pair of free throws from Evans and Bellocchio. That would give Hofstra a 52-48 advantage with 16:36 to play in regulation, but an 8-2 run ensued for the Rams to give them a narrow 56-54 lead.
A basket from Snyder with 11:07 to play would extend the VCU lead to 62-57 before two free throws from Bellocchio closed the gap back to three, 62-59, with 10:08 left in the second stanza.
Hofstra was not to be denied, though, as the Pride continued to fight back and a pretty feed from Pena to freshman forward Anma Onyeuku with 8:34 showing on the clock evened the score once again, this time at 64. Pena had another huge bucket right before that as she hit a three-pointer from the corner to close the gap to 64-62.
The Rams would keep the pressure on, though, as the used a 7-1 run, culminating with a rebound and basket from Hurt, to push the advantage to 71-65.
VCU would continue to stay out in front and extended the lead to nine, 78-69, with a free throw from Robyn Parks with 3:30 left in the second stanza.
That would prove to be too big of a hole for Hofstra to climb out of as VCU would go on to win by the score of 87-76.
Bellocchio added 11 points, while junior guard Nicole Capurso chipped in with seven points, eight assists and seven steals. The assists and steals totals tied career-highs for Capurso.
Andrea Barbour led VCU with 28 points, while Hurt added 22 points and 12 rebounds.