WASHINGTON, D.C. - March Madness will officially begin in earnest for the Howard University men's and women's basketball teams this coming Tuesday when the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament begins at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC. The tournament champions will get the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Bison men's team enters the tournament as the Number 8 seed and they will match up against North Carolina A&T (10-21), the Number 9 seed at 9 pm on Tuesday. Both teams struggled down the stretch as the Bison closed out their season with a five-game losing streak while the Aggies dropped their last four contests.
Howard (7-24) swept the Aggies this season, winning 82-77 in Greensboro, NC on January 16 and prevailing, 59-49 in February 13 at Burr Gymnasium. Howard sophomore guard Calvin Thompson was a key in both victories, pouring in a career-high 33 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in the game at Corbett Sports Arena and then getting his first career double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds at Burr Gymnasium.
North Carolina A&T's Tavarus Alston, a second team 2010 All-MEAC selection, paced the Aggies with 19 points in the first game but was held to 8 in the rematch at Howard. The most important stat was that the Bison forced the Aggies, who love to shoot the three ball, into a combined 11 of 49 shooting effort from beyond the arc.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinal round against Morgan State, the Number 1 seed on Wednesday at 7 pm.
The Lady Bison (15-13), the Number 4 seed, will go up against Florida A&M University (18-10), the Number 5 seed on Thursday at 2:30 pm. Howard won both games against the Lady Rattlers. The first was a 69-68 overtime thriller at Burr Gymnasium in which all-conference selection Zykia "Ziggy" Brown did not play. The second was equally exciting as Howard held on for 49-48 nail bitter in Tallahassee, FL.
The 2010 MEAC Rookie of the Year, red-shirt freshman forward Saadia Doyle was a big factor in both wins with double-doubles of 23 and 12 in the first game, and 17 and 11 in the rematch. But it was the clutch play of freshman Cheyenne Curley Payne that proved to be the difference down the stretch in both games. The freshman point guard from Chula Vista, CA, hit some big shots and came up with some key steals.
The Lady Rattlers have a lot of firepower in guard Tameka McKelton, who poured in a career-high 32 in the game at Howard, and Qiana Donald, who recorded a double-double of 12 and 14 in that donnybrook. In the second game in Tallahassee, the Howard defense was able to contain McKelton, who was held to 12 points and Donald, who finished with 6 points and only 8 rebounds.
The winner will advance to the semifinal round on Friday at 12 noon.