Junior forward Saadia Doyle scored 16 of her game-high 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the second half, and junior guard Tamoria Holmes tallied 13 of her 19 points after intermission, to lead Howard University to a 51-43 win over Florida A&M University in the semi-finals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) women’s tournament March 9 in Winston Salem, N.C.

The No. 2 seed Lady Bison (24-7) advanced to the tournament championship for the second straight year against Hampton, who are the 2011-12 regular season MEAC champion and 2011 defending tournament champion. The game will be televised live on ESPNU March 10 at 4 p.m.

Doyle and the Howard defense set the tone for the game early. The Lady Bison jumped out to an early 24-8 lead on the strength of some strong team defense and Doyle, a first team All-MEAC selection.

The Howard defense was stifling, holding the Lady Rattlers to 15 percent on 5 of 33 shooting. The 5-foot, 11-inch junior from Atlanta, Ga. led all scorers with 16 points and grabbed six rebounds.

“We hang our hats on our defense,” said Howard Coach Niki Reid Geckeler. Howard’s defensive efforts have held 25 of their last 26 opponents to under 60 points. “We were able to execute our game plan. Saadia did a great job on the boards and Tamoria picked up things offensively for us in the second half. And the twins are our unsung heroes.” The Deterville twins grabbed a combined 14 rebounds.

The third-seeded Lady Rattlers (22-8) made a run in the second half and used a 10-1 run to get within two at 36-34 at the 6:43 mark.

Following a timeout, Howard responded with a 10-2 spurt to take a 46-36 lead with 1:49 left that all but sealed the deal. Holmes, a first team All-MEAC selection, scored four of her 13 second points during the run.

“The outside game wasn’t working in the first half, so coach told me to start going to the hole,” said Holmes, who connected on eight of 16 shot from the field and grabbed a season-high six rebounds.

After establishing herself as an offensive threat in the first half, Doyle concentrated more on defense and rebounding the second half, along with an occasional timely basket or free throws to keep FAMU at arm’s length.

“I came out much more aggressive today than I did in our regular season game against them,” said Doyle, who recorded her 39th double-double of her career.

The Lady Rattlers appeared to be a step slow to start the game. Florida A&M had pulled out a hard-fought win over Maryland Eastern Shore less than 24 hours before this game. Their problems were further compounded by the late absence of junior guard/forward Antonia Bennett, the MEAC Player of the Year and junior/center Qiana Donald, the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, due to foul problems.

“We started the game slow and sluggish,” said FAMU head coach LaDawn Gibson, the MEAC Coach of the Year. “We dug ourselves in a hole that we were not able to get out of. And when Antonia and Qiana got into foul trouble, it changed the game.”

Freshman guard Jasmine Grice led the Lady Rattlers with 14 points while Donald and Bennett each added 13 points. Freshman center/forward Jamie Foreman grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds for Florida A&M.

Hampton swept Howard this season and has won six in a row in the series, including last year’s championship.
“It is Number 1 and 2 matching up,” said Coach Geckeler. “They are a very tough team.”