Hofstra forward Shante Evans checks the scoreboard during action against...

Hofstra forward Shante Evans checks the scoreboard during action against Delaware. (Feb. 16, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The task appears daunting, but the Hofstra women's basketball team thinks it will be ready, willing and able to handle seventh-ranked and top-seeded Delaware in the CAA championship.

But to do that, the fourth-seeded Pride (19-10) will have to advance to the semifinals. Up first is fifth-seeded UNC Wilmington (19-11) Friday afternoon at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., in the quarterfinals. Hofstra beat UNC Wilmington by 11 points in the regular season.

Delaware (27-1) plays eighth-seeded Old Dominion (11-20) in the quarterfinals. If both teams win, Hofstra will face Delaware on Saturday.

"We're definitely very excited to get a third chance to play against them,'' said forward Shante Evans, who leads the Pride in scoring (18.9) and rebounding (10.4). "But we have to get past the first game first.''

Regardless of what happens in the tournament, Hofstra expects to qualify for the WNIT, but the NCAA Tournament is the objective. "Our main goal is win the CAA championship,'' Evans said, "so we're definitely concentrating on that first. We want to get 20-plus wins to help us get to postseason play, so [the WNIT] is in the back of our mind.''

Delaware, with All-American forward Elena Delle Donne, the CAA player of the year, will be front and center if Hofstra beats UNC. "She's 6-5, can shoot anywhere on the court,'' Evans said. Delle Donne, who leads Division I in scoring (28.3), averaged 41.5 points against Hofstra in two regular-season victories.

"We get past the first one, we have round three [with Delaware],'' Pride coach Krista Kilburn Stevesky said. "They know we can't get to that round three if we can't take care of the first game. [Delaware] only beat Drexel by a game-winning shot, then the JMU game was close, then our game. We can definitely play them much better . . . We have things in our pockets that we have not used.''

Hofstra's Nicole Capurso said, "It's very hard to beat a team three times in a season. Three things we've learned. Elena Delle Donne is good. Two, we need to rebound the ball to win. Three, we can beat them. We're not, 'Oh, my, it's Elena Delle Donne.' We're playing Delaware. Last year we lost to them without her, then they came to us with her and we beat them. How many things can you be worried about?"I think our biggest mind-set is survive and advance. You hear that all over the country come March. It's because there are so many factors.''


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