Hampton, Howard Meet In Round 2
Washington, DC—It was billed as the biggest match of the Year in women's basketball in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The two teams, Hampton and Howard, played for the tournament championship last March and were picked to be the top two teams in the conference after entering the game with impressive non-conference wins on their resume.
The Lady Bison (13-6 overall, 5-1 in the MEAC) were in the midst of a nine-game win streak and appeared prime to defeat their chief rival and the two-time defending tournament champion.
The pre-game hype affected both teams in the early stages as neither was able to score or get anything going during the first 4 minutes that saw missed shots, turnovers and moments of big-game jitters. It was almost as though whoever scored first would assume control of the game.
The Lady Pirates (14-3 overall, 6-0 in the MEAC) drew first blood on a three-point basket and from there, they would take control of the game, forcing Howard to miss 21 of its first 23 shots en route to a 26-8 halftime lead by Hampton.
"You have to give Hampton credit," said Howard Coach Niki Geckeler. "They did a really good job defensively to take us out of some of the things that we like to do. We got some good looks but were not able to hit shots that we normally convert."
The Lady Bison played better the second half, but they dug themselves in such a big hole that Hampton was able to prevail, 63-40 and snap Howard's nine-game win streak.
Since that game, the Lady Bison have re-grouped and won three straight while Hampton has dominated its last four foes, winning by an average of almost 30 points (The Lady Pirates host Norfolk State on Saturday). This game is a chance for redemption by Howard and a chance for the Lady Pirates to further establish their stronghold on the conference regular season title. FAMU is also in the mix with a 6-0 conference slate. The Rattlers play Howard in Washington, Dc on February 11 and against Hampton on February 27 in Tallahassee.
During the loss, Hampton was able to effectively take the Howard offense out if its rhythm. Team leading scorer Tamoria Holmes, who averages 18 points per game, was rendered ineffective as the junior guard missed 15 of 18 from the field. Senior guard Zykia Brown, who has been effective coming off the bench with her scoring at 10 points per game, failed to score and Cheyenne Curley Payne, the team quarterback extraordinaire, committed an uncharacteristic 6 turnovers.
Saadia Doyle was the only Howard player that proved to be effective as she finished with 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field and 8 rebounds. The rest of the Howard team shot 6 of 41.
The Lady Pirates, on the other hand, were able to generate offense form their defense. Alyssa Bennett, a guard/forward transfer, proved to be a key on both ends. She led all scorers with 23 points and 11 rebounds while also keeping Holmes in check with her defense, Melanie Warner contributed 11 points and 8 rebounds and Jericka Jenkins registered a double double of 14 points and 11 assists.
"We were mainly concerned with their Big 3 of Jenkins, Warner and (Choicetta) McMillan because we know what they can do," explained Geckeler of the strategy. Bennett had not had a big game prior to our game and was averaging 8 points per game. She shot the ball well and ended up with 23. We have to do a better job of accounting for all of their players."
Both teams bring a four-game win streak into the contest. Geckeler says that there is no secret to what her team needs to do to secure the victory.
"We have to get off to a fast start; we have to convert on our shots; and we have to rebound the ball better," said Geckeler.
The tipoff is scheduled for Monday at 7 pm in Burr Gymnasium, where the Lady Bison are undefeated this season. This game has been designated as "White Out." All fans are encouraged to wear a white to show their support and solidarity.