Albany State point guard Mecca Frost, who scored 15 points and dished out five assists, scores on a fast-break layup Monday against Paine College. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — Winners of six straight and eight of their last nine, the Albany State Lady Rams are one of the hottest Division II teams around.
So when Lady Rams coach Robert Skinner described the first 15 minutes of Monday’s game against Paine as “the best we’ve played all year,” it was saying something.
Albany State jumped out to a 38-14 lead after 15 minutes of play against the visiting Lady Lions and led by as many as 36 before cruising to an 82-69 victory in a performance that left few doubting that the Lady Rams are the SIAC East Division’s team to beat in the last month of the regular season.
“That was a great start,” Skinner said. “I was glad with the way we started the second half and started the game. We were very consistent, ran our offense, were very effective in scoring and very aggressive on defense. They did all of the things I asked them to do (Monday).”
Albany State’s statement on Monday was instant with the Lady Rams charging out to a 16-2 lead in the opening five minutes despite Paine’s Ashley Watts entering the game as the leading scorer in Division II, averaging 27.3 points per game.
Instead, it was ASU putting on the offensive show.
The Lady Rams led 29-8 halfway through the first half with eight of their early points — and almost all of their tempo — coming from point guard Mecca Frost, who was the cornerstone of ASU’s victory, scoring a team-high 15 points and holding Watts to six first-half points on 1-of-9 shooting.
“She ignited the offense (Monday) and did a good job on Ashley,” Skinner said of Frost. “She held (Watts) in check most of the night, and it took Mecca leaving the game before Ashley really started scoring.”
Watts finished with 27 points on 6-of-22 from the field and 12-of-16 from the free throw line, but 17 points came in the final 10 minutes of the game with Frost on the bench
“Basically coach told me to stay in her face and stay on her to make sure she couldn’t get a shot up,” Frost said. “I made sure to give her a little contact to get in her head a little bit.”
While Frost was shutting down the nation’s leading scorer, she was also directing the Lady Rams’ fast break offense, which was nearly flawless on Monday and led to one layup after another in the first half.
Frost dropped in a basket on a fast break with 18:03 left in the first half to get the Lady Rams on the board, and then they added 27 points over the next eight minutes to put the game away early.
“Most of the teams can keep up with us for the first two or three minutes, but they get so tired and we just keep pushing,” Frost said.
ASU’s Tip Holston, who is all but recovered from an ankle injury she suffered on Jan. 2 that limited her for the last three weeks, scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, and former Crisp County star Keidra Green scored 15 points and dished out five assists.
Skinner was encouraged by the play of Holston, who had her highest scoring game since going down with the injury.
“I am seeing her getting better and better and better,” Skinner said. “She is back to jumping again, and she made a couple of moves around the basket (Monday). Once she gets well, we are going to blow up. We are going to take off.”
ASU’s largest lead of the game came with 9:32 left when Green knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Lady Rams on top 67-31.
Skinner went deep into his bench the rest of the game, and Watts took advantage, pulling the Lady Lions to within 16 points with 2:06 left. Paine, however, never got closer than 13.
ASU (12-3, 7-1) remains one of four teams in the East Division with one conference loss , while Paine fell to 6-10 overall and 4-3 in the conference, keeping the Lady Lions in last place in the East Division.