Hornets fall to TU Tigers in first exhibition game



Senior guard, Jayla Crawford elevates for a fast break layup against the Tuskegee University Lady Tigers in an exhibition game.

Kendal Manns, Senior Staff Reporter/Writer

The Alabama State University Lady Hornets fell to the Tuskegee University Lady Tigers in a 72-70 loss in a thrilling exhibition matchup on Nov. 6.

In the Lady Hornets’ first shot at the competition since their close loss in the Southwestern Athletic Conference against the Jackson State University Lady Tigers, they came out of the gate a little slow. They tried to get the ball in the post to their bigs, who notably did not include star forward Shmya Ward, but many of their entry passes resulted in turnovers and scores on the other end. With the Tigers taking a 10-2 lead, the Hornets started to settle down and get back into the game by stringing together some good defensive possessions and moving the ball around on offense. 

Hornets’ star guard Ayanna Emmanuel was aggressive in her drives to the basket, making tough shots and getting to the free-throw line as well. Turnovers still plagued the Hornets throughout the first quarter, but the Tigers’ struggles to convert in transition allowed them to stay in the game. The two teams battled to close the quarter, but a putback by Tuskegee guard Brittney Bolin at the buzzer gave the Tigers more momentum and a four-point lead going into the second. 

The Hornets went on a run to start the second quarter featuring contributions from many of their players. Emmanuel drove in for another layup, continuing her aggressive play. Sophomore forward and 2020-21 SWAC Freshman Player of the Year, Farrah Pearson, scored another spinning hook shot in the post, looking very much improved and confident from her freshman campaign in the spring. Sophomore guard DaKiyah Sanders hit a three-point bank shot to give the Hornets a 22-20 lead, their first of the night. 

The game would stay tight with both teams playing physically and capitalizing on each others mistakes. A couple of threes by seniors Jayla Crawford and Tyesha Rudolph extended the Hornets lead to 35-26 with a little over two minutes left in the game. The Tigers went on a run of their own, closing out the quarter on an 8-0 run featuring shots from Arielle Mcelroy and Jutoreyia Willis. The teams went into halftime with the Hornets up 35-34 going into a second half where any mistake could cost the game. 

Both teams traded blows in the third the same way they had the entire game. Willis was active on both sides of the ball early and single-handedly gave the Tigers the edge early on. A specific issue for the Hornets started to rear its head – they were getting outrebounded. They struggled to put bodies on the Tigers’ players, resulting in second-chance opportunities for them and one-shot possessions for the Hornets. 

Crawford, who exploded in the second half, helped the Hornets overcome a lot of their turnovers to give them a 44-40 lead after an and-one fastbreak layup. Tuskegee forward Ashilia Jackson made a tough layup over the outstretched arms of Hornets six-foot-two forward Jada Nneji. Willis maneuvered her way through the ASU defense and found Mcelroy for a big jump shot to give the Tigers a two-point lead. With one second left on the clock, Crawford hit a huge three-pointer to close out the third quarter to the ovation of the raucous crowd. 

The fourth quarter was much of the same, with both teams going back and forth. The Tigers’ offense heated up, scoring on their first two possessions. The Tigers started out working the Hornets, especially on the offensive boards. Just as the Tigers started gaining momentum, Crawford made another and one layup to give the Hornets life. Emmanuel got to the free-throw line again to tie the game up at 57 with five minutes to go. Tuskegee’s India Blakely hit a three at the top of the key, giving the Tigers a three-point lead. Crawford gets to the line and goes 2-2 to bring the game back within one. Despite suffocating defense from the Hornets, Mcleroy hit another shot in the corner. Blakely came back and converted an and-1 on a foul by Emmanuel, putting them up 68-63. 

Rudolph tied the game up at 68 with a clutch three-point with 32 seconds left in regulation. Jackson made a layup on a dime from Mcleroy to put the Tigers up 70-68. Crawford responded immediately with a euro step into the paint for a layup to tie the game up at 11 seconds. Jackson called the game with the fadeaway jump shot, as the Hornets failed to get a shot off in the final seconds. 

Despite a loss, this exhibition was encouraging for the Hornets. Crawford and Emmanuel picked up where they left off last season, scoring 25 and 19 points, respectively, showing why they were named to the Preseason All-SWAC teams. Pearson stepped up big in Ward’s absence, recording an eight-point and eight-rebound game. Sanders looked much more comfortable in her second season for the Hornets and was more aggressive as a scorer as well. 

The Hornets look to build on those positives as they start the regular season on the road against Mississippi State University Bulldogs on Nov. 9.