COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Howard Bison saw their historic season come to an end Friday at the hands of the top overall seed. Head coach Dawn Staley South Carolina defeated Howard 79-21 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks jumped out to an early 12-0 lead and never looked back.
What the score didn’t indicate was how well Howard executed its defensive gameplan. In the first quarter the Bison limited projected National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston’s touches to just three, held projected first round WNBA pick Destanni Henderson to 1-of-4 shooting and starting guard Zia Cooke to 0-of-5.
“Like we said before our coaches they give us the game plan and today we truly locked in defensively because we know they’re a much bigger team,” guard Iyanna Warren said. “Our coaches told us to pack the paint and what did we do that first quarter? We did our best to pack that paint and make them beat us from the outside. That was the plan and we honed in on it.”
Howard University head coach Ty Grace said she’s seen the growth in her team and Friday was no different.
“They’ve always been coachable and always taken direction well. This isn’t the first team we’ve scouted and tried to take something away, so like I told you guys earlier in the week, that was something we prepared for,” she said. “They did exactly what we asked. Obviously there were some disadvantages there in the paint with the rebounding, but we did a good job. The next step is we continue to get better and grow from it. We’re going to continue to set the standard with our defense and work on our offense, but they did a good job today locking in on what we were trying to take away from South Carolina.”
The Bison saw whole roster check in and Grace said that will be big for the team moving forward, particularly the younger players.
“They’re going to compete, they’re going to fight, they’re going to have a will to be on the floor,” she said. “I wanted to give them that opportunity to be in that type of spotlight so they can see what it feels like, what it looks like so when the opportunity comes again, they’ll definitely be ready. I thought that they were ready this time, but obviously they’re young, it was their first time so I think that stepping on the floor in the bright lights, this opportunity will definitely prepare them moving forward and when we get here again, it’ll be a different result.”
Warren said they plan on taking the experience they’ve gotten this week back to D.C. and start their mission to return.
“Coach Ty said it, we set the standard and there’s no lowering it at this point,” she said. “It’s only up from here so when we get back to MEAC play, we’ve got to keep this same intensity, keep this same mindset and we plan to be back here next year.”
Forward Krislyn Marsh said they understand the challenges that will come with being the top dog now.
“We’re definitely going to have X’s on our back next year but that just makes the MEAC tournament that much more competitive which works in our favor,” she said.
South Carolina head coach Dawnhttps://www.slamonline.com/the-magazine/south-carolina-slam-237/ Staley commended Grace on the job she did this season.
“I just congratulated her. I know their are future is super bright. I think Ty wants to do great in this profession, and, you know, this is a notch in her belt, because she got the first win being a part of the First Four,” she said. “I know that her success will definitely bring a lot of attention to other opportunities. Not that I want her — Howard to lose her, but when you’re successful in this business, you know, it’s an attractive thing. She’s putting herself in the position to do that.”