Curley-Payne Spurs Howard To Overtime Win Over Florida A&M
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Cheyenne Curley-Payne scored the go-ahead basket with 15 seconds remaining and then came up with a steal to seal the victory as Howard University edged Florida A&M University, 69-68 in a thrilling, overtime Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women's game at Burr Gymnasium.
After the Lady Rattlers (10-6 overall, 3-3 in the MEAC) took the lead at 68-67 on two free throws with 15 seconds remaining, Curley-Payne calmly brought the ball upcourt, used a screen and maneuvered her way to the basket to give the Lady Bison the lead at 69-68.
Florida A&M inbounded the ball and attempted to push it up the floor but Curley-Payne deflected the ball away from the Lady Rattlers' LaShonda Gaines and dribbled out the clock.
The play of Curley-Payne, a 5-5 freshman from Chula Vista, Calif, Kara Smith and Saadia Doyle proved to be key in the victory as Howard had to play without its leader and team-leading scorer, junior guard and all-MEAC candidate, Zykia Brown, who injured her ankle in practice on Friday and did not suit up. Brown was honored for reaching the 1,000 point mark prior to the start of the game.
"We stepped up as a team," said a happy Howard Coach Niki Reid Geckeler. "We made some big plays down the stretch. Cheyenne came up big the last two plays. Kara (Smith) also played a huge role in this win. I told the team after the game that our babies grew up today."
The Lady Bison (8-9 overall, 4-2 in the MEAC) led 34-30 at the half despite the absence of Brown, who averages over 18 points per game and ranks among the conference leaders in several statistical categories. With the play of Smith, Curley-Payne and Doyle, Howard opened the second half with a 14-5 run over the first nine minutes to take a 48-35 lead at the 11:08 mark.
But the Lady Rattlers, who have posted wins over Alabama at home and Florida and South Florida on the road this season, rallied on the scoring of Tameka Melton, who single-handedly got her team back in the game, scoring 17 of her game-high 32 points in the second half and overtime period to tie the game at 59-all and send it into an extra frame.
Howard played for several minutes at a time with five freshmen on the floor, but Doyle, who continues to show that she is no ordinary freshman, refused to let the pressure of the game affect her young teammates. The 5-11 red-shirt freshman from Atlanta, GA, made key baskets and grabbed important rebounds whenever Howard needed them. She finished with a team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season.
"We call her ‘Steady Saadia', " said Coach Geckeler. "She gives you steady and consistent play each game. She has proved to be a very tough player to guard." Doyle connected on 9 of 18 from the field to go along with three steals.
Smith, a 6-0 freshman from Chicago, IL tallied a career-high 14 points to go along with five rebounds. Curley-Payne came off the bench to hit of 6-of-8 from the floor for 13 points and five assists. Tamoria Holmes, a 5-6 freshman guard from Durham, NC also contributed with nine points and three assists while junior guard Jalisa Pullins added four points and five assists.
Melton, a 5-8 sophomore from West Palm Beach, FL hit on 10 of 20 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free throw line for her career-high 32 points. Qiana Donald recorded a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds and Antonia Bennett added 11 points for the Lady Rattlers.
NEXT UP: FAMU travels to Hampton, VA to take on the Lady Pirates of Hampton University on Monday at 5:30 pm while the Lady Bison will host Bethune-Cookman University on Monday at 6 pm in Burr Gymnasium.