SAVANNAH, Ga. – Savannah State redshirt senior, and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year Ezinne Kalu led the Lady Tigers to a 61-55 victory over five-time defending MEAC Champion Hampton Saturday.
Kalu and company were looking to avenge a 49-65 loss that ended the 2013-14 campaign in a semifinal game of last year’s MEAC Championship Tournament. SSU tied Hampton going into the half of that game, but couldn’t overcome a 40-point second period from the Lady Pirates.
The story was very different on Saturday in Tiger Arena. SSU led 36-30 at the half and held the Lady Pirates to only 25 points in the second half for their fourth MEAC victory of the season.
The Lady Tigers proved their home-stand record is not a fluke, going up 15-4 at home since the beginning of the 2013-14 season; earning their second major win of the season after beating Florida 68-58 in early December in the Tiger Den.
For Hampton, the perennial powerhouse – eight MEAC Championships, five consecutive – snapped a 54-game winning streak against MEAC foes with the loss to Savannah State.
The Lady Tigers outplayed Hampton in every facet of the game on Saturday. SSU outrebounded Hampton (42-37), committed less turnovers (17-26), outshot the visitors (44.4 percent, 30.2 percent from the floor), and committed less fouls (17-24).
Kalu continued to prove her place in SSU history with her 16th game in double-digits this season, leading the field with 23 points. Kalu finished the game with her 300th point of this season. She now as a career 1,907 points as a Lady Tiger.
Senior Jasmine Norman – a key spark off the bench for the Lady Tiger offense – finished in double-digits for the 11th time this season. She’s now averaging 10.4 points an outing.
While the Lady Tigers’ leaders stepped up in the big game, SSU was not short of timely scorers. Playing with an undisclosed finger injury, senior Bria Dorsey put in eight important points. Sophomore Kenyata Hendrix added six, and center Tiyonda Davis tacked on five points and led the field in rebounds with 10.
Hampton came out with attitude as their No.1 player, Malie Tate-DeFreitas (averaging 20.4 pts a game), knocked down a trey in the first 20 seconds of the game. Tate-DeFreitas led Hampton with 18 points on the night.
SSU responded with four straight points from freshman Shanikwa Buie, who got her first career start. A back-and-forth followed, but Hampton quickly broke free behind some stellar 3-point shooting. With 11:28 to play in the first half, Hampton led 15-8.
Undeterred by the Lady Pirates’ offensive spurt, Norman sank a jumper to spark a 14-2 run for the Lady Tigers that gave them the lead back. Hendrix drained a 3-pointer, and Kalu scored off a steal to lift SSU to a 22-17 lead with 7:33 to play.
Savannah State would never again trail Hampton.
SSU finished the first half with a 36-30 lead, scoring 16 of those points in the paint. The Lady Tigers shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the first period, while Hampton ran a 30.0 percent clip from the floor, but shot 50 percent from downtown.
The Lady Tigers came out strong in the second period with a field goal from Kalu and a 3-pointer from Hendrix to extend their lead to nine points.
Ryan Jordan and Areana Davis put up four straight points for the visitors that cut SSU’s lead to 43-40 with 14:20 to play. SSU responded with a 7-1 run to get back out to a nine-point lead over the following two minutes.
SSU continued to lead down the stretch despite some offensive bursts from Hampton. With 1:19 on the game clock, Jordan hit back-to-back free-throws to cut SSU’s lead to 56-55. Jordan scored 16 points on the night for Hampton.
Dorsey scored on the ensuing possession and after several missed shots from Hampton and a costly turnover from SSU, Dorsey was fouled and went to the line with 23 seconds on the clock.
SSU led 58-55 and the senior did her job, sinking both free-throws to give SSU a five-point advantage. Senior Jazmin Thomas hit one shot from the charity strip to seal the final score.
Savannah State Sports Information