Fourth-quarter run and rebounding crucial in Howard’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win

Howard University Bison women’s basketball won their first-ever NCAA tournament game Wednesday night with a 55-51 victory over Incarnate Word (13-17). Led by junior forward Brooklyn Fort-Davis, the Bison fought back from a halftime deficit to get past the Cardinals late in the fourth quarter.

In her opening statement to media postgame, HU head coach Ty Grace reiterated her gratitude to the players and the entire Bison community.

“I’m just thankful again for this group of young women that they came and made history tonight,” Grace said. “I’m so very proud of them. I want to say thank you to the whole Bison community, the whole Bison family, just all the support that’s been getting poured out. Just elated and happy to be able to represent this university.”

The Bison trailed for most of the game but overcame adversity down the stretch, staying on the heels of UIW until the MEAC Tournament champs prevailed. A key to HU’s success was offensive rebounding. They corralled 22 offensive boards compared to just two by UIW.

“My shots weren’t falling, so I knew that I had to keep on shooting them, and I do excel in crashing the boards, so when they didn’t go in, I just had to go crash and do what I’m good at,” Brooklyn Fort-Davis said when asked about the rebounding edge.

Her teammate Krislyn Marsh concurred.

“Crashing the boards was just crucial because it gave us a second opportunity to hit shots,” Marsh said. “Even when our shots weren’t falling, we were able to get our own rebounds, just keep trying, keep pushing at them, along with our defense being able to lock them down so at least they weren’t scoring, and once we got into a rhythm, we just capitalized off of it.”

The game was tied with 8:04 left in the last period when Howard (21-9) began a crucial run that would lead them to the historic win. With balanced scoring from Fort-Davis, Marsh, Iyanna Warren, and two final free throws from Kaniyah Harris, Howard catapulted into the round of 64 to face the overall top seed South Carolina on Friday.

The game marked the first appearance for the Bison in the Big Dance since 2001. HU’s squad makeup is predominantly first- and second-year students. For head coach Ty Grace the upcoming seasons look bright.

“I think the future for Howard women’s basketball is in great hands,” Grace said. “I think we built the foundation over the past years that I’ve been here, and that’s what we planned — that’s what I came here to do. I came here to compete for conference championships and make a run in the NCAA Tournament. That’s what we talk about, that’s what I tell recruits, that’s what we talk to our players about.”

She added: “The future I think is in a great place, and I hope that the people that are still here, the players that are still here are going to continue to buy in, they’re going to continue to work, and whoever comes to follow is going to do the same thing because that’s going to be the expectation. So, I’m really excited about that. I couldn’t ask for anything else from this group of young women.”

Fort-Davis led Howard with 15 points plus 11 rebounds. Marsh added 14 points and a whopping 16 rebounds while Destiny Howell scored 11 and pulled down four rebounds.

For UIW, Tiana Gardner came off the bench for 16 points and six rebounds. Jaaucklyn Moore was also in double figures with 14 points puls five rebounds.

The contest was also UIW’s first time in the tournament after winning the Southland Tournament.

Howard’s next outing is Friday, March 18, vs. South Carolina at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN. Fort-Davis gave her take on facing the best team in the country.

“I’m not scared. It’s just another experience, another day to play how we play. It’s going to be a tough one, but we’ve played tough games all season, so we’re ready.”

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