BOWIE – Halfway through their home game against Winston-Salem State (WSSU) on Jan. 4, the Bowie State University women’s basketball team led by 20 points, and on their way to yet another comfortable win. However, the visiting Rams were determined to change the complexion of the game in the last 20 minutes.
WSSU stormed back from a 33-13 halftime deficit to trail by only one point early in the fourth, bringing the crowd at the A.C. Jordan Arena to the edge of their seats. Though the Rams held the Bulldogs to their worst shooting performance of the season, 27.5% from the field, BSU was able to muster enough timely defensive stops and convert free throws late to escape with the nail-biting 54-48 home win.
Head Coach Shadae Swan said to start the second half her team “slipped back into that comfortable mentality,” but fortunately managed to hold off WSSU by executing the small things.
“Even though Winston made their run, we did a good job of continuing to do the little things that worked for us,” Swan said. “We weren’t making shots, so we had to find other ways to score. So getting steals and getting out in transition is what helped us a lot today because our shots weren’t falling.”
Bowie State used a balanced attack on offense, forced five turnovers and allowed only one field goal to build an 18-3 lead at the end of the first.
Winston-Salem State continued to struggle throughout the second and was outscored 15-10 to trail 33-13 at the break. The Bulldogs did not shoot well in the first half, but drew fouls and connected on 15 of 16 free throws to maintain and extend their early lead. Forwards Kyaja Williams and Dynaisha Christian combined for 20 points and 15 rebounds to pace the Bulldogs in the first half.
At the intermission, the Rams had only connected on 4 of 22 field goals and were losing the battle on the glass, 25-12. Approaching the second half, they knew something had to change to stand a chance against the CIAA’s top team.
Rams guard Taylor Daniels drained a corner 3 to open the third, sparking game-shifting momentum for WSSU.
Daniels added another jumper from long range, and Brandi Segars attacked the basket for six third-quarter points as the Rams posted a 10-3 run before a media timeout. The Bulldogs couldn’t get any offense going, shooting 1 of 15 from the field. Conversely, the Rams were clicking on all cylinders as they capitalized off turnovers and crashed the boards with tenacity on their way to outscoring BSU 19-5 in the third quarter.
Talanya Hutton made Bowie’s only field goal in the third. WSSU’s valiant comeback effort reduced the deficit to 38-32 to conclude the third.
The Rams’ Hailey Gibson sank a close-range jumper that was followed by another triple by Daniels to begin the fourth quarter, closing the gap to 38-37 with 8:20 left in the game. Both teams went back and forth in a physical match decided in the final minute.
Daniels came off the bench and drained four 3-pointers to lead all scorers with 18. Segars poured in 10 points and seven boards for WSSU.
A few free throws by Williams and a 3-pointer by Amel Duggins made it a two-possession game with six minutes left, but the Rams responded on the other end to trail 47-45 at the two-minute mark.
With a chance to tie, Jahlia Williams made 1 of 2 free throws to close WSSU’s deficit to 47-46 with 1:04 to go. On the next possession, Hutton banked in a floater to put the Bulldogs up 49-46, and then Williams made a game-saving deflection on the defensive end when the Rams tried to respond.
After making her first free throw, Williams missed her second but went in for the offensive rebound and got intentionally fouled. Shawnkia McCallum made two more from the charity stripe to seal the win for the Bulldogs (13-0, 3-0 CIAA).
Williams netted 16 points to go with 16 rebounds to lead Bowie State. Christian chipped in with 11 points and 11 rebounds while Hutton scored 10.
“I feel like we might’ve (had) a lack of focus. We let the little things get in our way,” Williams said of the third quarter, a point when her team was outscored by 14. BSU didn’t lose its composure at the end, and the game was a reminder of how to properly handle adversity in late-game situations, added Williams, a 5-foot-8 senior.
“This was actually a good game for us, like in the middle of the season, that tells us no matter what you gotta maintain your composure,” she said.
The Rams fall to 6-8 overall and 3-3 in conference play with the loss. While WSSU Head Coach L’Tona Lamonte was proud of the resilience her team showed, she noted an ill-advised shot at the end that hurt the Rams.
“We were looking to get a quick 2, but we ended up taking a step-back 3, which is not what we were looking for, but other than that we have to make sure we have our people in place next time,” Lamonte said.
Next for BSU will be a conference road trip at Johnson C. Smith on Jan. 9, Claflin University on Jan. 11 and Fayetteville State on Jan. 13.