Alcorn stays atop SWAC with win over Alabama AM

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

LORMAN &045; You won’t find it on the stat sheet, nor can you work on it with drills in practice.

Alcorn head coach Shirley Walker liked her team’s focus for Saturday night’s 76-44 pounding of Alabama A&M as her club enters the stretch run of the season still in first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

And that’s the biggest thing the veteran coach is preaching &045; just stay focused, and something special could happen next month.

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&uot;That’s the main thing,&uot; junior forward Natasha Dennis said. &uot;We have to stay focused. We can’t let that No. 1 go to our heads. It’s like coach said &045; this is our year. We’ll take it one game at a time. The team played real hard. There are still some mistakes that need to be corrected, but we’ll cross that hump when we get to it.&uot;

It may be nit-picky to point out mistakes in Saturday night’s manhandling of a talented A&M club at the Whitney Complex. The Lady Braves (11-3, 15-7) moved into sole possession of first place with the win after Alabama State lost at Southern Saturday, but Walker can admit there are still areas to keep working in order to stay there.

But the Lady Braves started solid by holding A&M scoreless the first five minutes, led by 18 at half, had a little lapse late in the second half but put the game well out of reach after that.

&uot;We did what we wanted to do,&uot; Walker said. &uot;I’m pleased with our turnovers (14). With five seniors on the floor who have been playing together that long, you wouldn’t think you’d have that many turnovers. Every game we play is going to be tough. It’s going to be a championship game. Every turnover we don’t make is going to be a plus for us.&uot;

The Lady Braves’ inside game came up big again with 38 points in the paint to A&M’s 18 and Rasaan Powell and Candace Roberts combining for 26 points. But the Lady Braves played well on the other end of the floor thanks to a 2-3 zone for a good portion of the game to keep the Lady Bulldogs from clicking offensively.

The Lady Bulldogs (7-6, 12-10) didn’t get on the board until more than five minutes in when Kaysha Williamson scored at the 14:49 mark.

&uot;We never could get into a rhythm,&uot; A&M head coach Altherias Warmley said. &uot;Alcorn State really played like a first-places team tonight. We didn’t play like we were capable of playing. They did a good job of penetrating and attacking the basket. We ended up fouling too much. They did a great job on the boards. I’m sure they shot a high percentage.&uot;

The inside game was too much on both ends as Powell and Roberts pounded it inside and the defense kept leading scorer LaShowann Smith scoreless in the second half. Powell took a pass from Shikhia Sims after the guard picked up a steal, went hard to the basket, hit the bucket and converted a three-point play after getting fouled for a 60-33 lead at the 9:27 mark.

That came on the heels of Roberts getting a roll on a shot under the goal the possession prior.

&uot;I thought we did a pretty good job on the inside,&uot; Powell said. &uot;That’s where we basically got the points until they started doubling down. (Smith) really didn’t do anything. We shut her down. Our weakside help was outstanding. It made it hard on her to get the ball.&uot;

Alabama A&M put up its only run of the game after Powell’s bucket as a shot from Williamson sparked an 8-2 run. Williamson ended the run at the 7:04 mark that trimmed the deficit to 62-41, but the Lady Braves tightened up on defense after that and allowed just one field goal the rest of the way.

By that time the Lady Braves had went to their man defense after a 2-3 zone earlier gave the Lady Bulldogs trouble.

&uot;(Walker) does it against us because when we played last time they played zone 95 percent of the time,&uot; Warmley said. &uot;She realizes that slows us down and makes us work a little bit harder to get the ball in. They did a good job of executing tonight on both ends of the floor.&uot;

Alcorn jumped out to that solid lead early and took a 23-14 lead at the 4:59 mark on a bucket from Tanika Nunez. The Lady Bulldogs shaved the lead down to seven when Tamisha Augustin put in a bucket at the 4:49 mark, but Johnson followed with a three-point play to put the lead back at 10.

The Lady Braves finished the first half on an 8-0 run with Roberts catching an A&M attempt to keep the ball in-bounds right under the goal and putting it back up for a 36-18 lead that stood until halftime.

&uot;(The zone) worked the last time we played them,&uot; Walker said. &uot;We knew they would make some adjustments. That’s one thing we kind of prepared for &045; when they put four guards and one big person down low. It’s kind of hard to match up with what we have.&uot;