Hampton 59, Howard 38
NORFOLK, Va. (AP)
Luckily for the Lady Pirates, the Lady Bison offered little resistance, shooting 18.5 percent in the first half to trail by 20 and never really making a run in the second half. Hampton and coach David Six won 59-38 to become just the second school in league history to win four consecutive conference tournaments.
''We've hung our hats on defense all year,'' Six said after the Lady Pirates won their 19th straight, becoming the first MEAC team to go through the regular season unbeaten and also win the conference tournament since Coppin State in 2006. ''I thought defensively, we were able to get control of the game.''
With the offense making 9 of its first 12 shots, it didn't take long, either.
Olivia Allen scored 16 points, Alyssa Bennett had 14 and Keiara Avant 12 for Hampton (28-5), which used a 15-3 run early in the first half to take command, then all but took away any suspense with a 14-0 run just before halftime that expanded its lead to 35-23. Howard (20-11) closed to within 41-29 midway through the second half, but the Lady Pirates responded with a 9-0 run, then cruised to victory in the opener of a championship doubleheader at Scope.
Now, with a sense he has a team that can be a factor in the NCAA tournament, Six defended his team's record.
The Lady Pirates are among the leaders nationally in scoring defense, allowing 47.5 points per game.
''We don't control what the NCAA does, but I think given the seed we deserve, we're dangerous,'' Six said. He later added that he thinks the Lady Pirates deserve better than the traditional 15 or 16 awarded the MEAC champion, especially with victories against the likes of LSU and Mississippi State of the Southeastern Conference, and another against Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference. ''I don't think we're a 15 of a 16 seed. I think 13 is fair.''
It would be hard to disagree after the way the Lady Pirates handled third-seeded Howard.
Kara Smith led the Lady Bison with 12 points, but Howard - the only other team to win four MEAC titles in a row, from 1987-90 - 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 Bennett, the league's defensive player of the year, and finished with nine points on 2-of-9 shooting. She averages 20.6.
''Whenever we play them, it's always aggressive, aggressive from start to finish, and we have a tendency of backing up, backing up, backing up and retreating instead of taking it head-on and pushing through it,'' Doyle said. ''Once they come with the pressure, if you continue to retreat, you're putting yourself in a bad situation.''
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.
Eight consecutive points by the Lady Bison in the second half pulled them to 41-29, but Nicole Hamilton hit a pair of free throws, Bennett made a 3-pointer from the right side, and Avant scored inside twice to finish off a 9-0 burst, restoring the lead to 50-29 and essentially securing the outcome.
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