Blondell Curnell had 23 points, Donna Wood 16 plus 12 rebounds and Michele Dyer 10 plus 11 assists as the Howard women's team defeated South Carolina State, 77-69, in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship game today.

The victory advanced Howard to the NCAA tournament. The Bison will play at Long Beach State in the first round Friday night. Howard finished the regular season 14-10, but was 6-0 in the MEAC before winning two tournament games.

Jimi Gatlin had 23 points and 17 rebounds for South Carolina State, but the Bulldogs couldn't contend with Howard's balance.

Curnell scored 10 points in the first five minutes as Howard opened an 11-3 lead. South Carolina State led only once the entire game, at 22-21, but Howard's Sherry Van Pelt made two free throws and Dyer banked in a running one-hander and Howard was never in trouble again. Howard led by as many as 17 points in the second half.

"We really feel we've come of age," said Howard Coach Sanja Tyler. "This is a great moment not only for women's basketball in our conference, but for Howard. We're very proud and we think we can play with just about anyone. We aren't awed by any team."