ITTA BENA, Miss. – A pair of high-level performances by graduate guard Nigeria Jones (Lincoln, Neb.) and senior forward Dariauna Lewis (Omaha, Neb.) led Alabama A&M (4-8, 2-0 SWAC) to a 65-56 victory at Mississippi Valley State (1-9, 0-2 SWAC) in an NCAA Division I women’s basketball game on Wednesday, January 5.
Coming off Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Player of the Week honors earlier in the day, Lewis got an early start on making a case for that award next week with a huge double-double of 14 points and 14 boards to go with two assists and a pair of blocks. When she wasn’t scoring Jones was, registering a game-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.
They were joined by sophomore guard Darian Burgin (Cincinnati, Ohio) with eight points, eight caroms and a pair of assists while graduate forward Teliyah Jeter (Taylors, S.C.) added eight points, four boards, four steals and two blocks. Freshman guard Zhordan Shannon (Smyrna, Tenn.) rounded out the top performers with six points, three boards and two assists.
A&M came out with all cylinders firing as they raced out to a 17-3 lead over the first 5:45, scoring 17 straight in a span of 5:09 in a run fueled by five points each from Burgin and Jones. Down but not out, MVSU would rally with a 9-2 burst to cut it to 19-12 with just over a minute left in the opening frame before a bucket by Jones gave the Bulldogs a nine-point spread heading to the second.
Valley would eventually narrow the gap to 24-18 just under four minutes into the period but it would not be a pace they could sustain. Over the final 5:15 of the first half, Jones powered the Bulldogs to a 16-8 run that saw her score eight points and stake them to a 40-26 lead at the break.
The Devilettes would work to cut the deficit to 12 on a pair of occasions early in the third before a 6-1 burst by A&M made it 50-33 by the 6:31 mark. MVSU would not give up, however, as they put together an 11-3 stretch in a span of 4:12 to close to 53-44, a score the clubs would take to the fourth period.
Over the first seven and a half minutes the teams would be even as they split the first 14 points to make it 60-51 but even doesn’t mean much when you come in down nine and the clock is not your friend. Such was the case for the Devilettes as A&M knocked down a jumper and three free throws before five late points by MVSU put the score at the final margin of 65-56.
Zakiya Mahoney led Mississippi Valley State with 16 points, six boards and a pair of steals while Shelli Thigpen was right behind her with 13 points, six caroms, two steals and a pair of assists. Mikayla Etienne added 10 points, four rebounds and two steals and Ronni Williams chipped in with five points, four steals and four boards.
Having wrapped up their season-long eight-game road trip, the Bulldogs will return home to face Alcorn State on Saturday, January 8. Game time is set 2 p.m. at Elmore Gymnasium.
With the victory, A&M has now won nine straight, and 13 of the last 15, against MVSU with the current streak dating to January 8, 2018.
Story comes from Joshua J. Darling, Sports Information Director at Alabama A&M University