With 4:42 remaining in the first half Howard senior guard Saadia Doyle put in a lay-up and extended her team’s lead to 31-25. The No. 8 Lady Lions (1-0) were down six at home and in some trouble.
Doyle’s basket triggered a timeout from Lions’ head coach Coquese Washington, and after coming out of the team huddle, things had changed.
The Lions played much better out of the timeout and used aggressive defense to cut into the Bison lead. Thanks to quick hands by guards Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas –– who registered six steals combined, three each, in that span –– the Lions forced nine turnovers and enjoyed a 14-0 run heading into recess.
Lucas was energized and pumped up the crowd before running into the locker room with her teammates.
“I think we just picked up a lot harder on their ball handlers and we were able to pick up a few steals,” Lucas said. “That gave us some good momentum and were just happy we were able to get that done.”
The eight point Lion lead at halftime would not be relinquished the rest of the game and the Lions went on to down the Bison 72-61. With the win, Washington improved to 6-0 in season openers in her coaching career.
Lucas led the way for the Lions with 25 points, while redshirt senior forward Mia Nickson recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Bentley also chimed in with 14 points and seven steals.
On a night where spirits were running high because of the raising of the 2011-2012 Big Ten regular season championship banner into the rafters of the Bryce Jordan Center, the Lions started out a little slow.
The squad did not hit its first field goal until the 16:45 mark of the first half and was not as explosive out of the gate like they were a season ago.
“We have a lot of players returning, but we're a different team this year,” Washington said. “We've got to find our rhythm with the way we're playing. When you're integrating two new players that are going to play a lot of minutes for us, it's going to take some time to figure that out in game situations. I think a lot of it is beginning of the season rust, so to speak.”
Redshirt junior guard Dara Taylor and true freshman Candice Agee –– those two new additions –– both saw playing time in their first “true” game in Lady Lions uniforms. Taylor finished the night with five tallies and three dimes, while Agee recorded her first career block and did not score.
Next up for the Lions is a Wednesday night affair with No. 15 Texas A&M in College Station. It will be another opportunity for Washington to access her team and how the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.
“We didn't play as well as maybe we wanted to play, but it gives us feedback on things we know we need to get better on,” Washington said. “We've got to turn it around quickly because going into Texas A&M is going to be a big challenge for us.”