The Howard men’s basketball team hosted Hampton University to open the 2023-24 season at Burr Gymnasium on Monday night. The game resulted in a 92-80 blowout victory for the Bison.
With the rivalry between the two historically Black universities motivating both teams to come out with their best, it would be a back-and-forth battle throughout most of the game.
Burr gymnasium was filled to 93 percent capacity with 2,500 people in attendance, which only added to the environment.
Play opened with Joshua Strong, point guard for the Howard Bison, scoring the first bucket of the game with a putback off of an offensive board.
From then on, the teams would trade buckets for the first five minutes of the game, with solid defense being shown from both sides. The Pirates relied on three-pointers, putting up 14 shots from range in the first 20 minutes of action. However, the Bison responded with some three-pointers of their own with guards Marcus Dockery and Jordan Hairston both contributing two threes each in the first half.
The half closed with Howard forward Dom Campbell getting an and-one layup to make the score 40-36 in favor of the Bison going into the break.
Going into halftime, the crowd could tell that Howard was playing with a lot more energy than they had in the previous games due to the atmosphere. Destiny Pridgen a junior audio production major, described what it was like to see the team come out with so much energy, considering she viewed the two previous scrimmage games as part of the Howard University marching band.
“They have a lot more energy and just like zeal overall in this game. I feel like in the last game they were a little overconfident and that caused American to get a lot of points. Today, they have an offense. I’ve seen pretty good defense…It’s a good game, very engaging,” Pridgen said.
During halftime, among the usual performances from the Howard Bisonettes and cheer, the team would honor Mahlon West and Armani Washington, Mister and Misses Howard University, as their captains of the day.
Kenneth Blakeney, head coach of the Howard men’s basketball team, contended, “On a night [that] means so much to our campus community, it was important for us to have the captains that are true reflections of Howard.”
The battle between the two HU’s would continue in the second half, with the opposing teams’ cheer squads even getting in on the fun with cheer battles during timeouts.
Although it was still a tight-fought game throughout the half it felt like Bison was always in control due to the team being able to get timely stops when they needed to, and being able to knock down key shots and get to the rim to produce points there or on the free throw line when fouled.
After a clutch-and-one layup from Howard guard Bryce Harris and a couple of fastbreak dunks, the game was put out of reach for the Pirates, resulting in the final score being 92-80.
Harris, who had success on the interior for the whole game, led the team in scoring with 23 points and five rebounds along with Dockery chipping in 21, knocking down five threes. Preseason Mid-East Athletic Conference Player of the Year Shy Odom and Strong added 12 each en route to the victory.
After the game, Dockery felt ecstatic to come out with the win in a rivalry game that has a history that stretches to before he was born. With this also being his second year at Howard after transferring from the University of Maryland, he looks forward to the opportunity of taking on a larger role this season.
“It’s amazing. This is a rivalry game that’s been going on for years, before I was even born, HU versus HU,” Dockery said. “There was one point in time where they (Hampton) were in the MEAC conference, and now they’re not. So this energy that came from the crowd, from the coaches extended from years back and to be able to play my game, not to be rushed, take every possession slowly and to do what I do best and to have the trust in my coaches that they have trust in me goes a long way. I’m thankful for this opportunity.”
This will not be the last time the two teams go head to head, with them being scheduled to play next year on Feb. 3 in the Michael B. Jordan Classic in Newark, New Jersey, at 4 p.m.
For the Bison’s next game, they will travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Institute of Technology on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. where the match will be broadcast on the ACC network.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew