NORFOLK, Va. – The seventh-seeded South Carolina State women got off to a fast start before sputtering and dropping a 57-34 decision to second-seeded Maryland Eastern Shore on Wednesday in quarterfinal action of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament at The Scope.
With the loss, he Lady Bulldogs ended their initial campaign under first-year head coach Audra Smith an even .500 at 16-16, the school’s best showing since the 2014-2015 season when SC State finished 16-12.
“I’d like to congratulate my team on having a solid season,” said Smith. “We finished .500 and had some real battles with some good teams outside the MEAC as well as in the conference.
"I inherited a team with eight seniors and I have to say they were very coachable and a joy to work with. I’m extremely proud of my team overall and especially the seniors.
Smith praised Maryland Eastern Shore's program.
“They have a very talented team with lots of weapons and they had great balance in their win over us," she said. "We started strong but had some scoring lapses and some costly turnovers that they capitalized on to take control of the game.”
The Lady Bulldogs committed 22 turnovers that led to 14 points by UMES, which climbed to 17-13 on the season. Also, SC State shot a dismal 21.4 percent (12-56) from the field, but made all seven of its attempts from the free throw line.
Junior Taylor Brown led SC State with her second consecutive double-double, 11 points and 14 rebounds. Kemoni Jenkins and Rhein Beamon, two of the eight seniors on the squad, contributed seven points each in the loss.
Orangeburg’s Jaquanna Murray, also a senior, grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with four points in her final appearance for SC State. She was overcome with emotion when reflecting on her Lady Bulldog career at the postgame press conference.
UMES was led by reserve Adrienne Jones with 13 points and Ciani Byrom with 12 and five assists.
The Lady Hawks, meanwhile, earned a 2 p.m. Friday matchup with the winner of Thursday’s contest between third-seeded Bethune Cookman and 11th seeded Coppin State.
The first half featured a streak of runs. Underdog SC State, using an aggressive attack, scored the game’s first nine points.
The Lady Hawks, who got the last four points of the first period, continued their hot hand in the second period, scoring eight in a row for a 12-9 advantage with 7:16 on the clock. Seven straight points by SC State, including a 3-pointer by Brown, gave the Lady Bulldogs a 16-12 edge with 5:29 left in the half before the Lady Hawks ended the period on a 13-0 run to lead 25-16 at the break.
The Lady Hawks, who had scored 21 second-quarter points, matched that total in the third period, while holding SC State to just six points to lead 46-22 after three and coasted to the win.
Smith, reflecting on her first year in the MEAC, said she is looking forward to the future at SC State and competing in the league.
“The MEAC is a great conference, with great coaches that do a good job,” she said. “I have some very good vibes about my first year coaching in the MEAC and at an HBCU.
“I’m excited about the potential here and restoring the program at SC State to its glory days. This is something that I really hope to make happen.”