Stetson erased a 14-point first half deficit but came out on the short end of 77-75 decision to Hofstra in the women’s basketball season opener Friday afternoon at the Ocean Center.
Shanasa Sanders hit five three-pointers and scored 24 points to lead the Hatters (0-1). Victoria McGowan scored 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting before leaving the game midway through the second half with an injury.
“There were two things I was really proud of in this game,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. “We hung in there in the first half and didn’t lie down. And I was very pleased that we were able to take the lead while Victoria was out of the game. That’s encouraging for me as a coach to see that we can play without her. We sure are a lot better with her, don’t get me wrong, but I think we really grew in today’s game.”
Trailing by two late in the game, Jama Sharp found Sanders in the left corner for a wide-open three-pointer that gave Stetson a 75-74 lead with just under a minute to play. After a Hofstra timeout, Shante Evans put the Pride (1-0) back on top with one of her six field goals in the game. The Hatters had two chances in the final 30 seconds to regain the advantage but couldn’t get the ball to drop either time. A free throw by Annie Payton with 2.6 seconds left capped the scoring.
“We had our chances at the end, I was just glad that we were in that spot,” Bria said. “Hofstra is a very good team and they are well coached. But we had our chances, and we just didn’t put the ball in the basket. If we hit even one of those it’s a different game, and they are fouling us. But to Hofstra’s credit they stuck it in when they had to.”
Stetson had a rough start, turning the ball over three times before scoring their first field goal.
“I didn’t like our start,” Bria said. “I think they jumped on us and it took us a while to get used to the pressure.”
Hofstra used their pressure and a strong inside game to build a 36-22 lead with four minutes remaining in the first half, but the Hatters closed the period on a 13-4 run to pull within five at halftime.
Stetson carried the momentum into a wild second half that featured five ties and six lead changes. Sasha Sims hit a clutch three-pointer with 10 minutes remaining to give Stetson its first lead of the game, 63-61. From there the lead see-sawed back-and-forth as neither team led by more than three down the stretch.
“Overall I was pleased with the effort,” Bria said. “And I was pleased with our toughness, because we were down, we were down big to a very good team.”
Sanders added four rebounds and four assists to her 24-point effort, and she played a team-high 37 minutes. Sims finished with 16 points and five rebounds, and Sharp added 10 points in 32 minutes.
“I am really proud of our point guard, Jama Sharp,” Bria said. “She stepped in and even though she’s only a sophomore she has improved a ton since last year. Shanasa Sanders also had a really great game for us as well.”
The Hatters shot 49 percent from the floor, 50 percent (9-18) from three-point range, and 83 percent from the free throw line. Hofstra held a 39-30 advantage on the boards.
Stetson will turn right around and face USF at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Bria said McGowan’s status for the game will be determined on Saturday.
Notes: Stetson played its first game at the Ocean Center in 25 years. The Hatters played seven games at the arena from 1985-88 … Jama Sharp made her first career start … Cha Cha Williams played 14 minutes in her first career appearance and drew two charges.