Hempstead, N.Y.- Sophomore guard Katelyn Loper scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Hofstra to a 67-60 wire-to-wire non-conference victory over Central Connecticut State on Wednesday afternoon at the Mack Sports Complex.
The game was the first of the New York Life Holiday Invitational, with Marist facing Auburn in the second contest.
Junior forward Shante Evans scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to register her fourth double-double of the season in lifting the Pride (8-2) to a win in the opening round of the New York Life Holiday Invitational. Senior guard Candice Bellocchio poured in 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds to help the Pride improve to 3-0 at home this season.
Junior guard Candace Bond contributed to a balanced attack by scoring nine points, blocking four shots, grabbing seven rebounds and added five steals for the Pride as Hofstra, which won for the second straight game and eighth time in the last nine games, will play the winner of the Auburn-Marist contest in the championship game tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. CCSU (6-4) will face the loser of that contest in the consolation game at noon.
Bellocchio now has 488 career assists, moving past Eileen McClennen (1985-1989) for the third-most assists in program history. Jaclyn Babe led the Blue Devils with 20 points and Jessica Babe added 13 in the losing effort.
The Pride entered the game already having scored 85 or more points in five contests this season in boasting the 13th-highest scoring offense in Division I. CCSU tried to slow the high-powered attack by running down the shot clock.
A plodding offensive strategy allowed the Blue Devils to get back in the game after going down as much as 13. Hofstra saw its lead cut down 43-42 with 14:31 left before Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey called timeout to break CCSU's momentum. That decision paid dividends as Hofstra never relinquished the lead, going ahead as much as 12 with almost six minutes remaining.
CCSU got as close as 64-60 with less than a minute on the clock. But Evans altered a shot and Bond grabbed possession but missed both free throws. Hofstra forced another defensive stop the next trip down, ending any hopes of a come-from-behind win for the Blue Devils.
Evans picked up her fourth foul with 10:41 left, forcing the frontcourt standout to the bench. Junior forward Deven Green picked up her teammate, completing a convincing pump-fake move along the baseline before powering in for a layup. The Pride then made another defensive stop before Bond hit a jumper for a 59-51 edge.
Hofstra raced to a fast start, drawing two fouls for four free throws before Loper hit a left-wing three-pointer for a game opening 7-0 run, prompting the Blue Devils to call timeout just 1:27 in. The break didn't curtail Hofstra's momentum as Bellocchio capped another strong run with a driving layup to put Hofstra ahead, 19-6, while forcing CCSU to call its second timeout of the half.
The Blue Devils responded from the respite, cutting Hofstra's lead to 38-34 at the break on the strength of Kaley Watras' 12 points. But Loper still scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting through the opening half and Evans had nine points and six rebounds.
Senior guard Nicole Capurso, who scored eight points against the Blue Devils, was honored before the game for scoring her 1,000th career point at Georgia State on Dec. 4. Capurso, who became the 22nd member of that exclusive club, was presented with a commemorative ball.