By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer, [email protected]
The mastery of Virginia’s HBCU basketball programs continued as Norfolk State and Virginia State left the D.M.V. with impressive MEAC and CIAA wins respectively. While Bowie State went back rebounded from their loss at home to the Spartans, Howard blew a 24-point second half lead before a post-game fight ensued that spread from the bleachers to the floor.
SIX PLAYERS SUSPENDED AFTER NSU’s COMEBACK AT HU
For 25 minutes Howard looked like a team that was ready to right its ship after a season full of missed opportunities with the biggest upset in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) over first place leader Norfolk St. With coach Kevin Nickelberry preaching ball movement and discipline, the Bison executed his game plan perfectly, before the bottom fell out of their performance midway through the second half.
Despite the MEAC’s preseason all-conference backcourt of R.J. Cole and Charles Williams combining for 45 points Howard fell 80-78 at Burr Gym. Cole’s brilliance in a losing effort personifies what has made this a frustrating season for the Bison. Even when they put themselves into a winning position, they find different ways to lose. This one, however, may be the costliest of all.
Howard (10-13, 4-4 MEAC) led by 15 lead at halftime, 45-30, and started the final period with a 10-1 run capped by a jumper from freshman Akuwovo Ogheneyole. That would be their biggest lead with less than 18:00 remaining 55-31 before the bottom fell out. Norfolk State gradually chipped away at the deficit with points off HU turnovers and second chance points. NSU scored 13 points off seven Bison miscues, while producing 18 second-chance points by winning the battle on the boards.
Once the dam broke Howard never found a way to patch the leaks. The Spartans rode the performance of redshirt senior guard Jordan Butler who scored 18 of his 21 points after intermission to earn the MEAC’s Player of the Week. Butler also scored 10 points after grabbing offensive rebounds that marked his eighth career double-double. NSU’s Mastadi Pitt drew a shooting foul with 2 seconds remaining and made both free throws to complete the Spartans’ 24-point comeback.
Following the game both teams had to be separated and weren’t allowed to leave the floor at the same time. With most Howard players behind the far baseline an incident occurred involving fans and players next to the floor level exit of the arena. As the melee intensified Williams was seen pulling Cole away from the incident as an attempt to calm him down. Meanwhile, a woman wearing a homemade jersey with Cole’s number on it was seen vigorously admonishing NSU coach Robert Jones as he was preparing for his postgame radio interview with the school’s broadcaster and had to be restrained.
After reviewing postgame video footage, MEAC officials concluded that NSU’s Jordan Butler, Kyonze Chavis and Nic Thomas along with Howard’s Princewill Anosike, Jalen Jones and Andre Toure’ would be suspended for one game.
VSU DOMINATES BOWIE ST.
Virginia State (18-3, 10-0 CIAA, 4-0 North) reasserted its place as the favorite to win the CIAA title with a dominant 84-67 win at Bowie State’s Jordan Arena. The score was no indication of how dominant the Spartans were.
The Trojans led for more than 34:00 and built a 43-32 halftime lead. VSU outscored the BSU 28-22 in the paint and the Trojans bench outscored the Bulldogs reserves 31-12. Jahmere Howze paced Virginia State with a game-high 22 points.
“Sometimes you’re the dog and sometimes you’re the tree,” said BSU Coach Darrell Brooks. “I just hope our young team takes some pointers from this game.”