WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Howard University Bison came out with high energy, opening up a 14-point lead to start the game, but a long scoring drought and some deft free throw shooting in the second half, proved to be too much to overcome as the Bison fell, 56-53 to the Delaware State Hornets in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) men's game at Burr Gymnasium.
The Bison (7-23, 4-12 in the MEAC) started four seniors on Senior Night and it looked to be beneficial when the top seniors—forward Mike Phillips (10 points), guard Anton Dickerson (6 points) and guard Calvin Thompson (5 points)--combined for 21 of the team's 27 points at the break.
Howard built its lead by employing full court pressure that resulted in 15 points off 11 Hornet turnovers. But the Bison paid a price as the fouls mounted, changing the complexion of the game.
"We controlled the tempo with our pressure," said Howard Coach Kevin Nickelberry. "Calvin (Thompson) gave us the numbers we needed to have an effective press. We set the tempo which was our game plan from the beginning. But we couldn't continue the pressure due to foul trouble and that changed our scheme. We were then forced to play at DelState's tempo."
Neither team was able to get much going in the early minutes of the second until junior guard Casey Walker buried a three pointer at the 14:40 mark to give Delaware State its first lead at 29-27. From there, it went back and forth. There were nine ties and 11 lead changes in the second stanza.
The Hornets were finally able to get a little separation on a layup by junior guard Albert Thomas and a put-back basket by freshman guard Miles Bowman that gave them a 53-47 lead with just 33 seconds remaining. The Bison desperately attempted to make up the difference but the Hornets closed out the game at the free throw line, converting on 13 of 18 in the second half and 24 of 30 for the game for 80 percent.
"The free throw shooting was clutch," said Nickelberry. "They had (Tahj) Tate who was eight for eight and (Marques) Oliver who was five for six. We missed a lot of those down the stretch, but that's how you close games. You close games by getting stops and making free throws and we did neither." The Bison made only 11 of 20 for the game, including only six of 14 in the second half.
Delaware State (13-15, 8-6 in the MEAC) was led by Thomas, who came off the bench to score 14 and Tate, who contributed 13. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Hornets.
Howard, which had its one-game win streak snapped, was led by Phillips with 16, 10 coming in the first half, Calvin Thompson with 12 and sophomore swingman Prince Okoroh, who scored 11 off the bench.
It was the regular season finale for the Bison, who will now await the seedings for the MEAC Tournament, which is March 11-15 in Norfolk, Va.