- Amber Bland scored a game-high 20 points to lead five
players in double figures as North Carolina A&T won easily over
Howard University, 80-52 in the quarterfinal round of the
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference women's tournament at the Lawrence
The Lady Aggies (24-6), the Number 1 seed. Will advance to Friday's 12 noon semifinal match against the winner of the Maryland Eastern Shore-Morgan State quarterfinal.
The Lady Bison (9-22) were able to stay within striking distance early on the scoring of Zykia Brown, Morgan Neal and Jalisa Pullins, who combined for 18 of their team's points. But the high-scoring and talented Lady Aggies got scoring from Bland (8) , Brittanie Taylor James (7) and reserve Ta'Wuana Cook (9) and took a 38-25 lead to the locker room.
"It's balanced and I like to see that," said North Carolina A&T head coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs, the MEAC Coach of the Year for the second straight season. "It is good to have a team where there is enough balance that many players can score. The kids play hard for the 40 minutes."
The second half was a continuation of the first as Nakia Deblanc and Reisha Bullock joined the scoring party. North Carolina A&T shot 54 percent (14 of 26) in the second half, recorded 9 assists on 14 field goals and turned Howard mistakes (17 second half turnovers) into easy baskets.
"I would first like to congratulate
North Carolina A&T," said Howard assistant coach Jimmy
Howard. "They played like regular season champions.
They got production five players and were very balanced. We
tried to make several adjustments based on how we played them
during the regular season. I thought we were in pretty good
shape for a while but then Cook came off the bench and hit those
two threes and that changed it all. When they play like that,
there is nothing much you can do." Coach Howard handled all
the bench coaching and post-game interviews in place of head coach
Niki Reid Geckeler, who is in her ninth month of pregnancy.
Statistically, the Lady Bison matched up pretty evenly in the shots taken and rebounding category, but they made only 32 percent of their shots and committed 16 turnovers. Brown, a second team All-MEAC selection, finished with 13 points and Neal added 11 in a losing cause.
Bland, a first team all-conference
pick, led all scorers with 20, Taylor James and Cook with 14
and Bullock and Deblanc, each with 10.
It was the second straight year that the Lady Aggies have won the regular season title. But they faltered in last year's tournament final against Coppin State on a last second shot. It has helped create a strong sense of urgency among the players, especially the seniors.
"My goal every game is to bring tenacity, to be intense," said Taylor James, the MEAC Player of the Year.. "It takes champions to play like champions. We're on a mission. We have one game down and two more to go. Everyday, we look at that picture in the locker room of that last shot, last year against Coppin State. And it just motivates us to come here and give it our all."