Virginia State got its breakthrough win at the CIAA tournament.
The Trojans erased the memory of last year’s disappointment of a one-point semifinal loss to Shaw by beating Lincoln (Pa.) 73-49 at Time Warner Cable Arena. Virginia State’s combination of defensive fortitude and a torrid first half were more than enough to give the Trojans (20-9) an overwhelming advantage.
“Our thing was to come in here and continue to do what we do,” Trojans coach James Hill said. “We felt like if we played our defense that would get us where we’re trying to go. The one thing we wanted to do was play defense and box out.”
Virginia State, which shared the North Division championship with Lincoln, played up to Hill’s expectations. The Trojans limited Lincoln to 27 percent shooting (17-of-63) and scored 18 points off 17 turnovers that included 10 steals. Virginia State was more efficient on offense, hitting 45.8 percent of its shots, including a dazzling 9-of-18 from three-point range.
“We’ve got to be able to make shots,” said Hill, who earned his first league title. “They were making good shots tonight.”
Four Trojans hit double figures, paced by point guard Jessica Lyons’ 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. Deanna Waiters added 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and Cana Marriott scored 14 points on 4-of-9 from the floor.
The Trojans got off to a hot start, hitting 54.2 percent of their shots in the first half to grab a 39-21 advantage at recess. Marriott was a major factor with a perfect shooting effort – 4-of-4 from three-point territory and 12 points– that spread Lincoln’s defense. Waiters added eight points on 3-of-6 shooting and the Trojans racked up nine assists on their 13 field goals.
Amani Clark led Lincoln (21-8) with 11 points, but the Lions never recovered from Virginia State’s early blitz and a 12-0 run to open the second half that cemented the outcome.