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WBB: Hofstra vs. No.15 Delaware tonight

Hofstra University #22 Nicole Capurso, center, attempts to

Hofstra University #22 Nicole Capurso, center, attempts to split Marist College teammates #24 Corielle Yarde, left, and #33 Kristina Danella in the first half. (Dec. 22, 2011) Credit: James Escher

Hofstra has answered most of the challenges put before it this season, including beating 2011 NCAA Tournament teams Kansas State, St. John’s and Marist.

Tonight presents a new challenge as the Pride travels south to take on No.15 Delaware (16-1, 7-0 CAA) and high scoring forward Elena Delle Donne. Hofstra (14-4, 6-1) split with the Blue Hens last season.

Coaches generally don’t like to play up regular season games or put one ahead of another, but even Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey knows Thursday night’s matchup has a lot riding on it.

“The kids are obviously ready for this game,” she said during her weekly report on Hofstra’s website. “It is what it is. These are the games that you live for…These are the teams you need to beat.”

Kilburn-Steveskey couldn’t have been more correct with that statement. For programs to become successful they must beat the good teams and the bad teams. Hofstra’s last win over a ranked team came in Kilburn-Steveskey’s first season when the Pride knocked off Michigan State.

It’s going to be a major challenge slowing down Delle Donne, who is averaging 27.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. The 6-5 junior is shooting 55 percent from the field and 92 percent from the free throw line.

Said Kilburn-Steveskey: “You’re not going to stop this player who’s to me is arguably one of the best players in the nation…We certainly have what we want to do to beat them…I think we have a good game plan. The kids said after practice they were pretty excited after the game plan.”

In last season’s 81-68 win over Delaware at the Mack Sports Complex, Delle Donne had 28 points in 34 minutes. Hofstra countered that with five players scoring in double figures. Shante Evans led the way with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Kate Loper had 18 points, Nicole Capurso added 13, Candice Bellocchio had 12 and Candace Bond chipped in 10 points.

Tonight could be a repeat of that matchup as Delle Donne is the only player scoring in double figures for the Blue Hens. Lauren Carra is averaging 8.1 points and Danielle Parker is scoring 7.4 points per game.

Hofstra has three players in double digits, led by Evans (18), Loper (13.6) and Capurso (12.2). The rest of Hofstra’s key players, Bellocchio, Bond and Marie Malone are all capable of putting up big numbers when needed.

A win would do many things for Hofstra. It would give the Pride its second win over a ranked team in school history. The first came during Kilburn-Steveskey’s first season when her squad won at Michigan State.

A win would put them in a first-place tie with Delaware and keep the Pride in the hunt for an NCAA at-large bid.

Game time is set for 7 p.m.

New York Sports