NORFOLK, Va., March 10, 2020 – The thing about these 7-vs.-10 games is the longer the lower seed hangs around, the more interesting the final minutes can get.
And South Carolina State, injury-ridden and only six deep, caused a few anxious moments before Howard escaped with a 79-72 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament first-round victory Tuesday afternoon at the Scope Arena.
Jayla Thornton scored 22 points, while Ayonna Williams posted a nice stat line of 17 points, eight assists and five steals as the Bison (16-14) advanced to a meeting with second-seeded Norfolk State in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round at 2 p.m.
South Carolina State concluded its season 3-27.
The Bison could never put the Bulldogs away, and when South Carolina State connected on four 3-pointers in the final quarter, a 16-point lead dwindled down to 76-72 on two Chrisana Scott free throws with 38 seconds left.
While Howard’s defense registered a couple of stops, Thornton sealed the game with three free throws.
“We closed the game out,” said Howard coach Ty Grace, whose team won the last meeting 78-47. “Give South Carolina State a lot of credit. They were scrappy and hit some big shots.”
Heniaya Moton, who could muster a smile when the post-game press conference moderator mangled the pronunciation of her first name, finished 6-15 from three-point range to finish with a game-high 28.
“We kept shooting … I had the hot hand,” Moton said. “We had to stay together, keep playing.”
Scott and Olivia Gabriel scored 14 and 11, respectively, for South Carolina State.
Imani Bryant had nine points and 11 rebounds for Howard, who led 23-15 after the first quarter and built it to 55-39 on a Brooklyn Fort-Davis lay-up with 3:40 left in the third quarter.