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Hampton 59, Howard 38

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP)

With each shot that went up and came bounding back off the rim or backboard, Howard coach Niki Reid Geckeler saw the Lady Bison's chances of challenging Hampton in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship game getting slimmer and slimmer, and the game was still just a few minutes old.

Sixteen of the first 18 shots the Lady Bison attempted missed, and several hit nothing, paving the way for a 59-38 Hampton victory.

''When you shoot the ball like this, you kind of put yourself in a hole against one of the best teams defensively in the country,'' Geckeler said, especially when the other team is shooting it well.

The Lady Pirates made 9 of their first 12 shots, led 19-8 after 11 minutes, and then tacked on a 14-0 run late in the first half to take a 35-15 lead into the locker room.

''It was very disheartening,'' said Howard's Kara Smith, who led the Lady Bison with 12 points. ''But it's more disheartening because we weren't able to be resilient and bounce back.''

The Lady Bison (20-11) tried, closing to within 41-29 midway through the second half, but Hampton quickly settled things with a 9-0 run, stretching its lead to 50-29, and all suspense was gone.

Howard shot just 21.4 percent (12 of 56) overall and was 3 of 19 (15.8 percent) on 3-pointers.

Saadia Doyle, the leading scorer in MEAC history with 2,304 points, was matched up against Alyssa Bennett, the league's defensive player of the year, and finished with nine points on 2-of-9 shooting. She averages 20.6.

Olivia Allen scored 16 points to lead the Lady Pirates as they won their 19th in a row.

Hampton (28-5), the top seed, became the first team to go through the MEAC regular season unbeaten and also win the conference tournament since Coppin State in 2006. It also became the second school to win the conference tournament four consecutive years; Howard did it from 1987-90.

Alyssa Bennett added 14 points and Keiara Avant 12 for the Lady Pirates.

Hampton took command right away.

The Lady Pirates used a 15-3 run in the opening minutes to lead 15-4, then added a 14-0 run just before halftime to stretch their lead to 22. Bennett had six points and Avant five in the early burst, and Allen fueled the latter with a pair of 3-pointers and a three-point play - all in a span of 1:17.

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Follow Hank on twitter at: http://twitter.com/hankkurzj

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