PHILADELPHIA – Coming off two statement road wins against Big Five rivals Temple and Villanova last week, Saint Joseph’s made quick work of Hofstra Tuesday night at home in Hagan Arena with a 73-60 nonconference victory.
Senior Erin Shields fueled the attack with 20 points that included a layup late in the first half that made the Archbishop Carroll graduate the 22nd player in Hawks history to reach the 1,000-point career milestone.
One of many Saint Joseph’s stars in the offseason who stood out in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer Basketball League, Shields was 7-for-11 on field goal attempts that included a 4-for-7 long range connection on 3-point attempts as the Hawks (9-1) won their eighth straight.
“This is nothing new,” Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said of Shields’ performance. “Erin has always shot the ball pretty well so we were looking for her to score today.
“We, as a coaching staff, were aware of her situation (points to reach 1,000), though we don’t necessarily share it with the players, but they were probably aware of it as well,” Griffin said.
“It was just a matter of Erin shooting the ball very well and getting her shots and getting her some looks in transition and also in the half-courts.”
Shields, who last month past her mother Renie Shields, the Hawks’ associate athletic director and also broadcast color analyst, into ninth on the all-time list, said she can tell early when she might have a big game.
“When you’re getting open looks in the beginning, you kind of get excited that you’re getting good shots and you just think about the next shot and they went in so it was kind of good today,” she said.
In the summer league Shields played on a team that won the championship and she performed with her older sister Kerri, a recent graduate of Boston College, and her younger sister Shannon, who plays at San Diego State.
Former Saint Joseph’s star Katie Kuester, now video coordinator at nationally-ranked University of North Carolina, was the player-coach.
Additionally, Hawks teammate Kathleen Fitzpatrick, who had eight points, is a cousin.
But Shields wasn’t the only story from Saint Joseph’s. Natasha Cloud was solid again and posted a near triple double with 11 points and 11 rebounds while dealing eight assists.
Sarah Fairbanks helped an inside-the-paint domination of 32-18 with 15 points as the Hawks led wire-to-wire against Hofstra (4-4) of the Colonial Athletic Association.
In December a year ago Saint Joseph’s was still in roller-coaster mode that included winning at Hofstra in the first-ever meeting between the two teams but also some setbacks before building momentum that led to the Hawks’ first Atlantic 10 title and NCAA tournament appearance in over a decade.
But this time around they have wasted little time to claim best Division I women’s unit in the city for now showing no sign of fatigue after completing a stretch of four games in 10 days.
“We’re coming off a tough stretch here with games every other day,” Griffin said. “To come out and finish it off before going into finals was very impressive and we’re looking forward to a couple of days off.”
After the crunched up phase of the schedule the Hawks will be off 11 days during the break for finals before traveling to nationally-ranked Syracuse, which is spending its first year in the Atlantic Coast Conference after being one of the émigrés from the old Big East.
Then it will be another eight days through Christmas before visiting Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 29, the last stop before the A-10 conference wars begin the rest of the way with the exception of a Big Five tilt with Penn next month.
“It’s coming at a good time,” Griffin said of the next stretch. “Our starting guards have put in a lot of minutes and so have our posts. These kids could use a break and we’ll be ready when the time comes to play Syracuse.”
Griffin spoke of the diversity of her squad in that Shields got her 20th and final points of the night on two foul shots with 16 minutes, 24 seconds left in the game and a 45-25 lead, yet the Hawks were never seriously threatened from losing a wire-to-wire command of the game.
“This team has a little more balance and sharing the ball and getting different people involved in the offense. I think the passing – our backcourt is pretty darn good and our posts played well and we’re going to continue to win.”
Andreana Thomas had 14 points for Hofstra while Krystal Luciano scored 10. But the Pride shot just 33.3 percent from the field.
Several Pride players made homecoming appearances and will be back in town when Hofstra visits Drexel in CAA competition.
Sophomore guard Sydni Epps played at Cheltenham, freshman Elo Edeferioka is a native of Nigeria who played for Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J., sophomore Dee Thomas-Palmer played at William Penn Charter, and Senior Annie Payton played at Camden across the river.
Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky compared Saint Joseph’s from last year to this.
She praised Cloud’s performance.
“I saw her splash off the Temple page and I was freaking out,” Kilburn-Stevesky referred to last week’s performance against the Owls. “She has a solid make-you win game. She’s just dynamic.
“You can’t throw the ball away. They’re so balanced.”
The Saint Joseph’s game was the only one scheduled during the light period due to finals among the 10-team PhilahoopsW group in the Guru’s local Division I coverage slate.
On Wednesday the Guru will be at the Palestra when Penn, riding a three-game win streak, hosts Army, another Patriot League squad, as Knights coach Dave Magarity makes a homecoming visit.
No. 12 Penn State is at South Dakota State while Princeton is visiting Binghamton.
Rutgers hosts Wagner on Thursday and as Saint Joseph’s did Tuesday night in its promotional package, it’s Dollar Dog Night in terms of the price of a hot dog.
Additionally, on Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. the NCAA at its NCAA.com site will announce sites for a bunch of sports tournaments, including the four regional locations for next year’s Women’s Basketball tournament.
Philadelphia is not in the mix but a pursuit is still being made to host the 2017 Women’s Final Four and a presentation is scheduled for December 17 at NCAA headquarters if there is still interest in hosting when the presentation date arrives.
The Guru will be back in the next 24 hours and continue to tweet the days news at @womhoopsguru.
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