|Savannah State Makes History With Win Over FAMU||< All News|
|Thursday, March 13, 2014|
NORFOLK, Va.—Jasmine Norman scored a game-high 22 points to lead four players in double figures as Savannah State ran past Florida A&M, 84-75 in the quarterfinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament at the Norfolk Scope.
The Lady Tigers (19-13), the Number 5 seed, advance to the semifinal round against Hampton, the Number 1 seed on Friday at 12 p.m..
Savannah State established itself early, connecting on 50 percent (17-of-34) of its shots and getting a balanced attack that featured seven players scoring. Norman and Ezienne Kalu, an All-MEAC second team selection, each scored eight points while Jasmine Kirkland contributed six off the bench. The Lady Tigers led, 37-27 at intermission.
Savannah State threatened to put the game away early at the start of the second half, reeling off a 17-7 run over the first four minutes to take a 54-34 lead. The run was fueled by Norman, Bria Dorsey and Kalu, who combined for all the points.
The Lady Tigers used a relentless fast break offense keep pressure on the Lady Rattlers. When Savannah State was going getting two on one and two on three fast break opportunities, they were establishing themselves in the paint, where they had a whopping 54-28 advantage.
“They pushed the ball at us more,” said Florida A&M head coach LaDawn Gibson. “Last time we played them at home, they were more of a jump shot shooting team and they were not as aggressive on offense as they were tonight. They pushed it at us and got easy baskets in the paint, which was a lot different from what they did the last time. We were prepared for it but we just didn’t play defense the way we normally do.”
Florida A&M (17-14), the Number 4 seed, struggled, missing some easy shots, but the Lady Rattlers finally got it going and reduced the deficit to 10 three different times. But the Lady Tigers were not be denied and kept attacking on offense, getting 16 fast break points.
One of the keys to the victory was the job that the Savannah State defense did on MEAC Player of the Year, Jasmine Grice. The senior guard came into the game, averaging 25 points per game, but was held to 14 points on six of 17 shooting and five turnovers. Kimberly Sparkman, the other half of the Lady Rattlers scoring duo, managed only seven points on three of 10 shooting.
“It’s very simple; she’s definitely the most valuable player in our league,” stated Baker of Grice. “She’s a great, great offensive player, and a great young lady that we’ve seen play for the last four years. So coming in, my philosophy was ‘if you don’t have possession of the ball, you can’t really score.’ So, we challenged Ezinne Kalu to play her, man-to-man, 94 feet and she accepted that challenge. First half, she came away with eight points and I think second half she had six.”
“Coming into the game, we didn’t want their three primary scorers – Grice, [Kimberly] Sparkman and [Taneka Rubin] – to get their averages. Just maintain sound defense in the half court, provide help when we can, and just box out, give them one possession and manage the game.”
For Savannah State, Dorsey scored 17, Kalu 15 and Kirkland with 12 off the bench. More importantly, the victory and advance to the semifinal round is a part of history for the University, which started officially competing in the conference since 2011-12.
“Here at the MEAC Tournament, it’s all about making history, staying relevant with the theme of the tournament,” proclaimed Baker. “For Savannah State women’s basketball, every win for us is history. This was the first time we got to the quarterfinals, and this is the first time we got to the semifinals. We want to keep building on the positive, and keep making history for our program.”
Savannah State played Hampton once during the regular and the Lady Pirates pulled away to the win. Baker says that he is looking forward to the challenge.
“They’re a totally different team; we’re going to have to prepare differently but we’re up for the challenge,” said Baker. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to play against Hampton University. We’re expecting a great basketball game.”