By Nicole Hutchison, Staff Writer
Posted 04:35 PM EST, Sun., Feb. 26, 2017
On Monday, Feb. 20, the Howard University Bison men’s basketball team put up a fight, but fell short to the conference’s number one team, North Carolina Central University with a final score of 59-66.
Going head to head against a team who lost by only six points to Ohio State, and losing to them by almost 40 points in their last meeting, it stunned everyone in the crowd by tight the game was. The Howard Bison (7-21, 4-9 in the MEAC) were on a two game winning streak after demolishing North Carolina A&T Aggies and Morgan State Bears, but the streak was terminated by the NCCU Eagles (21-6 overall, 12-1 in the MEAC).
After getting off to a rough start, senior Solomon Mangham stepped up as the leading scorer in the first half snatching 11points, while freshman Charles “CJ” Williams contributed eight.
NCCU controlled the first half, making 7 of 16 three-point attempts already having a 13-point lead going into the second half. The Bison came into the second half ready for battle, but NCCU’s stars Dejaun Graf and Patrick Cole somehow found a way for them not to give up their lead.
“The guys made some adjustments defensively and did a better job with our matchups,” Howard’s associate head coach Keith Coutreyer said. “We wanted to go under the screen on the point guard number 10 (Graf), and then on number 11 (Cole). We wanted to switch as many screens as possible to make sure he wasn’t getting open looks. We just wanted to play a little tougher and defend a lot better in the second half.”
Senior Tyler Stone, highlighted player of the game, gave the Bison their first lead of the game, putting up nine points instantly off the bench to make the score 58-56. The Eagle’s defense did not allow the Bison to keep their lead for too long.
Despite players often facing backlash for shots they missed or plays they failed to execute, win or lose, Coutreyer holds himself accountable for the team’s loss against the Eagles.
“The inability to score down the stretch when they had the team to only one free throw was probably more of me than the guys” Coutreyer said. “Not used to making calls and making those decisions, I probably didn’t get them into things as smoothly as we had been getting into the last two games.”
Keeping the game as close as it was gave the Bison a lot of momentum in the game and confidence facing one of the top-ranked teams in the league.
“Close only counts in horseshoes. So really for basketball it won’t say anything in the final analyses,” Coutreyer said. “We can take confidence from this game. We beat Morgan who is ranked third, keeping it close with the number one team. Closing our season out with three of the top four teams in the league should give us confidence going into the tournament.”
The Bison look to bring home a victory as they travel to Norfolk, VA to face Norfolk State on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m.