Brown, Curley-Payne Help Howard Get By Florida A&M
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Zykia Brown scored the go-ahead basket and then came up with a key steal as Howard University edged Florida A&M University, 56-54 in the quarterfinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament at the Joel Coliseum.
The Lady Bison (16-13), the Number 4 seed, will play South Carolina State, the surprise Number 8 seed, at 12 noon. The Lady Bulldogs upset the Number 1 seed, North Carolina A&T on Wednesday to advance.
Brown, a first team All-MEAC selection, and Saadia Doyle, the MEAC Rookie of the Year, combined for 21 of Howard's points as the Lady Bison led 25-21 at the half.
"We knew that it is a new season when you get into the tournament," said Brown, a junior guard. "We came out focused and ready to play."
The game was a carbon copy of the two previous matchups. In both games, Howard won by a single point.
"We knew coming in that it was going to be a very tough game against Florida A&M," said Howard second year head coach Niki Reid Geckeler. "We talked about staying focused for 40 minutes. The game of basketball is a game of runs, but you have to stay the course. That is what we were able to do."
Howard was able to maintain a slim lead through most of the second half and continued to hold FAMU at bay until FAMU guard Tameka McKelton got hot and led a 10-2 run that gave her team its first lead of the second half at 50-48 with 4:03 left on the clock. That is when Curley-Payne a series of big plays that included a couple of clutch threes, 2 rebounds and a steal. The 5-4 freshman guard has proven to be a thorn in the Rattlers' side in all three games.
"I can't explain it," said the soft-spoken freshman point guard. "All I know is that I had to step up and make plays if we were going to go to the next round." Curley-Payne scored all 10 of her points in the second half while also grabbing 5 rebounds and dealing out a game-high 5 assists.
McKelton singlehandedly kept the Lady Rattlers in the game with 19 of her game-high 24 points in the second half.
"I thought that we were a little stagnant to start the game," said FAMU head coach Lashawn Gibson. "Our guards were not attacking as they should have and we spent too much time on the perimeter passing the ball. We did a better job in the second half."
After Brown's driving layup gave Howard a 56-52 lead with 24 seconds remaining, McKelton knocked down two free throws with 11 ticks on the clock to get to within two at 56-54.
Then came the biggest play of the game. The Lady Rattlers got possession and pushed the ball up the floor and appeared to have an advantage in numbers. But Brown stepped into the passing lane, stole the pass and dribbled out the clock to send her team into the semifinals.
"It seems like in all three games, we gave them the games," lamented Coach Gibson. "It came down to bad decisions each time. But that is a part of game and maturity."
Antonia Bennett recorded a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds and Qiana Donald granned a game-high 15 rebounds in a losing effort.
Brown added four assists and four steals to her 20 points while Doyle recorded her 20th double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Howard, which fields one of the youngest teams in Division 1 basketball with nine freshmen, four of whom start, will take on the Lady Bulldogs, whom they lost to in the only meeting of the season in Orangeburg, SC.
"When you get to this point in the season, they are no longer freshmen," said Geckeler. "South Carolina State played very well in their game against NC A&T. It is a tough matchup for us. But then, when at this point, they all are. We just have to stay focused and continue doing what we do and that is defend and rebound. Everything else will take care of itself."