|Bennett, Defense Lead Hampton To Victory||< All News|
|Friday, March 14, 2014|
NORFOLK, Va. --- Alyssa Bennett scored 16 of her game-high 29 points in the second half and Kenia Cole and Malia Tate-DeFreitas combined for 21 in the second frame to help Hampton University pull away to a 65-49 win over Savannah State in the semifinal of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament at the Norfolk Scope. The Lady Pirates (27-4), the Number 1 seed, advance to the tournament championship against Coppin State on Saturday at 3 pm.
The Lady Tigers (19-14), the Number 5 seed, playing in the first semifinal since joining the conference in 2010-11, played the four-time defending tournament champs close through the first 20 minutes, settling for a 25-25 deadlock. Savannah State once trailed by nine but managed to close out strong despite 13 points and 10 rebounds from Bennett.
“It was a tough, tough game,” said Hampton head coach David Six. “Savannah State came to play. It was really a struggle for large parts of the game.”
In the second half, the Lady Pirates began to show why they have won four straight regular season titles. Combining some stifling defense and the timely scoring of Bennett early, and Cole and Tate down the stretch, Hampton reeled off a 16-5 run that opened a 46-34 lead, the largest at the time, that all but decided the outcome. Bennett, the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and a first team All-MEAC selection, was six of eight from the field while Cole (9 points) and Tate-DeFreitas (12) combined for 21 points.
“She played like a monster today,” commented Six, the 2013-14 MEAC Coach of the Year. “You can’t say enough about it. She’s playing like she wants it. She rebounded the ball. I thought that in the first half she was taking too many jump shots and I said something to her about it. That was all I said. In the second half, she went inside and took the ball to the basket. That loosened things up for Kenia, who hit some threes and Malia hit a couple of shots as well.”
Savannah State had problems scoring against the vaunted Hampton defense. The Lady Tigers shot 29 percent (8 of 27) in the second half and made only 2 of 14 from three-point range. Savannah State held a surprising 26-16 advantage in the paint, and outscored their reserve counterparts, 15-1.
“I think it was a combination of both, offensive struggles and Hampton’s being able to cover ground and get out in the passing lanes,” said Savannah State head coach Cedric Baker, of his team’s offensive woes. “They went from a man to a match-up zone and it kept us off balance. You have to give them credit for their defensive tenacity.”
But in the end, Bennett and the Hampton defense proved to be the deciding factor.
Savannah State got 12 points from Jasmine Norman and 11 from Ezinne Kalu.
Tate-DeFreitas, the MEAC Rookie of the Year finished with 16 and Cole with 12 for Hampton, which has now won 16 in a row.
While playing in the semifinal round of the tournament is routine for the Hampton program, it was a new experience for the Savannah State, which entered the MEAC in 2010-11.
“This is definitely a step in the right direction for the Savannah State University women’s basketball team to compete in the MEAC semifinal game,” noted Baker. “Coming in, we were excited about playing Hampton. We have a great deal of respect for their program.”
Added Six, “Coach Baker does a great job. He had those kids playing great defense. They get after it. They’re definitely a program on the rise in the MEAC.”