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Howard beats UIW 55-51 in first women’s First Four game

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - First Four - South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SC - MARCH 16: Destiny Howell #1 of the Howard Bison shoots the ball against the University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals during the First Four round of the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament held at Colonial Life Arena on March 16, 2022 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Gerry Melendez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

NCAA Photos via Getty Images

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Brooklynn Fort-Davis had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Krislyn Marsh added 14 points and 17 rebounds and Howard beat fellow No. 16 seed Incarnate Word 55-51 on Wednesday night in the first women’s First Four game.

Howard (21-9), in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, advanced to play overall No. 1 seed South Carolina (29-2) in the Greensboro Region.

Iyanna Warren made a floater in the lane and followed with a long jumper on Howard’s next possession to extend the lead to 47-42 with 4:53 left.

Fort-Davis ended Howard’s three-minute scoreless stretch with a shot under the basket for a 49-46 lead with 1:20 remaining. She added a basket at 43 seconds and a free throw with 35.8 left for a four-point lead. Kaniyah Harris gave Howard a seven-point lead in the closing seconds before Destiny Jenkins beat the final buzzer with a long 3-pointer.

Destiny Howell, the MEAC tournament most outstanding player, picked up two fouls in the first quarter and played just nine minutes in the first half before finishing the game with 11 points for Howard. The Bison shot just 30.9% from the field, but held a 53-34 advantage on the glass.

Tiana Gardner scored 16 points for Incarnate Word (13-17) in the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. Jaaucklyn Moore, who led the Southland Conference at 17.6 points per game, added 14 points. Chloe Storer beat the third-quarter buzzer with a long 3-pointers, following an offensive rebound, to give Incarnate Word a 38-35 lead.

Howard missed 14 straight shots in the first half, going six-plus minutes without a point, before Fort-Davis’ putback ended the field-goal drought to get within 22-19. Howard shot just 28.6% in the first half, including 1 of 12 from 3-point range, but outrebounded Incarnate Word 27-15 to stay within 28-26 at the break.

Howell gave Howard its first lead, 35-33, since it was 17-15 with a steal and fast-break layup to snap her string of 10 straight misses with 1:36 left in the third quarter.

Howard and Incarnate Word are two of the four automatic qualifiers in the First Four games, after winning conference tournaments, as he NCAA expanded the tournament field to 68 teams.