Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hampton two wins away from NCAAs

A few weeks ago, when middle-of-the-pack Bethune-Cookman snapped red-hot Hampton's eight-game winning streak, we thought it was a fluke. On Friday, we'll find out for sure when the two teams meet again Friday at 2:30 p.m. in the MEAC Tournament semifinals at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The Lady Pirates shrugged off that Daytona Beach debacle, won their final three regular-season games and added a fourth straight victory Tuesday with a 24-point pounding of Maryland-Eastern Shore in the MEAC quarterfinals. The Lady Wildcats, meanwhile, appeared to be going the other way as they dropped their final three conference games after beating Hampton, then impressed few in a 10-point decision over Norfolk State in the MEAC first round. But in a Thursday quarterfinal, the sixth-seeded Lady Wildcats roared out to a 21-point halftime lead and hung on to stun third-seeded Morgan State and set up a Hampton rematch.

Having said that, and with all due respect to Bethune-Cookman, this is still Hampton's game to lose. When these teams met on Jan. 23 in Hampton, the Lady Pirates rolled to an 81-44 victory. Hampton has had a full day of rest to prepare for this semifinal. If the Lady Pirates play anywhere near top form, the Lady Wildcats will be in trouble.

The first 10 minutes will be key. Hampton likes to jump on teams quickly with turnover-inducing defense and the 3-point shot. In that first meeting with Bethune, the Lady Pirates roared out to a 22-6 lead. In Wednesday's quarterfinal against UMES, Hampton opened with a 23-6 blitz. Another start like that and the Lady Wildcats will be cooked. If Bethune-Cookman can survive Hampton's initial assault, we'll have ourselves a ballgame. Either way, though, we expect Hampton to prevail and move one step closer to a MEAC title.

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Hampton in MEAC driver's seat
MEAC Tournament - It's party time!

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