Friday, March 9, 2012

Hampton shuts down Coppin State, rolls into MEAC final

Simply remarkable.

No other way to describe Hampton's defensive superiority these days. The top-seeded Lady Pirates (25-4) suffocated yet another MEAC foe Friday, downing No. 4 Coppin State 64-43 in the conference tournament semifinals at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. Hampton will go for its third straight MEAC title - and third straight NCAA Tournament bid - on Saturday at 4 p.m. against No. 2 Howard in a rematch of the 2011 title game.

Hampton will take a 10-game winning streak into the final. In the last nine of those games, no opponent has scored more than 46 points. Four of them couldn't get past 36. And in most cases, the foe has been snuffed out quickly - only twice in Hampton's last nine games has a Lady Pirates opponent managed more than 19 points in the first half. Friday's halftime score - Hampton 31, Coppin State 14.

Howard (24-7) understands how well Hampton defends better than most. Friday's 51-43 semifinal victory over No. 3 Florida A&M was the Lady Bison's 11th straight and 23rd in their last 25 games. But the two losses over that span came to the Lady Pirates, by scores of 63-40 and 52-39. And Howard scored just eight points in the first half the first time they played Hampton and only 12 in the opening 20 minutes in the rematch.

In other words, unless Howard can come up with some different answers, this third meeting might be over quickly, too. Especially if the Lady Pirates rebound the way they did against Coppin State (19-12). Hampton won the battle of the boards 62-28 and had more offensive rebounds (30) than Howard had total rebounds. The Lady Pirates outscored Howard in second-chance points 24-1. How else could they have won by 21 points with 31-percent shooting?

Indeed, Hampton's offense isn't always a thing of beauty, or at times, even a thing of halfway decent-looking. The Lady Pirates just make sure it always winds up looking better than the other team's.

We smell a three-peat.

NOTES: With Howard's RPI at 61 and Hampton's at 77 (according to, this will be the rare MEAC final pitting two RPI Top-100 teams...Jericka Jenkins and Alyssa Bennett each had 14 points to lead Hampton in the semifinal and Keiara Avant added 12. Avant and Bennett also added 13 rebounds apiece...

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