WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Zykia Brown scored 13 of her game-high 20 points in the second half and Natalie Day recorded a double double to help Howard University pull away to a 63-43 win over Bethune-Cookman University in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women's tournament at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum. The Lady Bison (9-21), the Number 8 seed, advance to the second round of the tournament against the Number 1 seed, North Carolina A&T on Wednesday at 12:30 pm.
The Lady Wildcats (12-17), the Number 9 seed, jumped out to a quick 11-4 lead on some hot three-point shooting by Jalisa Isaac. Howard then settled down as Brown, Tamaya Daniels and Day led a surge that gave their team a 25-23 lead at the half and more importa ntly, set the tone for the second half.
Bethune-Cookman was able to stay within striking distance over the first seven minutes of the second half until the Lady Bison reeled off a 17-1 run over a six-minute stretch that opened a 55-34 that put the game away.
"We came out today with a focus on defense," said Howard assistant coach Jimmy Howard. "Defense down the stretch has been big for us and we try to keep our zone tight. We wanted to make sure that they got no dribble penetration. I think our players did a great job with taking away some of the things that they really like to do."
Howard handled the bench coaching and post-game interviews for head Coach Niki Reid Geckeler who is in the ninth month of her pregnancy. The big run was fueled by Brown, Day and Daniels and featured some fast break opportunities that allowed easy baskets. Howard was able to capitalize by forcing 12 second half turnovers that resulted in 20 points.
"Turnovers was another thing that we really wanted to concentrate on and we had only eight today," said Howard. "Whenever you can protect the ball and cash in on the other team's mistakes, you have chance for success."
Added BC-U head coach Vanessa Inge. "Howard University played a great game today. I thought the effort was there but we just didn't shoot as well as we would've liked. The effort was there but we didn't come out and perform like we would've liked to."
Isaac, who had eight of her team's points in the first 20 minutes, was held to six points on 2 of 6 shooting.
Brown, who was named to the All-MEAC second team, had another one of her all-around performances with 3 assists and 3 rebounds to go along with her 20 points.
"Brown played a very tough game for us today and she came and played very aggressive for us," said Coach Howard.
North Carolina A&T won both games during the season, 67-49 in Washington, DC on January 31 and 84-60 in Greensboro, NC on February 28.
Howard offered his thoughts on the Lady Bison's second round matchup against North Carolina A&T.
"I think the two games that we played against N.C A&T, we played just the first halves, and it's about trying to close out the second half," said Coach Howard.
"We need to play 40 minutes. We live for this day. When it comes to tournament time, there's no greater place to be, and to be playing the conference champs, our players just wanted the opportunity. It's great for Howard women's basketball to get the opportunity to play against the best. So as we go out there tomorrow, without anything being said, I think they know what's at stake. I think they know with passion and a lot of heart that anything is possible. That's what March Madness is all about. It's about having a chance. The records are 0-0 and we happen to be 1-0 right now in March. So we want to just put it together and see where it leads us," Howard added.