The Cincinnati Bearcats traveled to D.C. for their matchup against Howard University’s men’s basketball team on Nov. 28.
The Bearcats were heading into the game undefeated making this matchup an opportunity for the Bison to measure themselves versus stiff Power Five competition. The Bison would also look to improve on a 10-game home winning streak going into the matchup with the Bearcats.
At tip-off, the Bearcats looked to have a notable size advantage in their front court anchored by forwards Aziz Bandaogo and Viktor Lakhin, standing at 7 feet and 6 feet, eleven inches, respectively.
The wingspan of the Bearcats affected the Bison on both sides of the ball for the first five minutes of the game, making it hard to score on the interior and keep the Bearcats off the offensive boards.
However, the Bison were able to counter the Bearcats’ inside attack by collectively knocking down shots from outside to open up driving lanes. Seth Towns, a senior forward, was able to get going, knocking down a couple of shots in a row late in the second half for the Bison to tie the game 25-25. During Towns’ first-half run, he eclipsed the 1,000 points benchmark for his college career.
Although the Bison managed to keep it close for the entire first half, they would go into the break down 34-29.
During halftime, the Howard Bison football team was honored for winning the 2023 MEAC Football Title and a trip to the Celebration Bowl. With the football team winning the outright regular-season championship this season, fans reached a new level of engagement, seeing the team honored with both trophies.
The close-fought battle between the teams would continue during the second half. Jordan Hairston, a grad transfer guard for the Bison, was able to come off the bench and provide timely buckets for the home team.
Hairston spoke of his experience in college basketball helping him come off the bench and be a spark when the Bison needed it.
“The plays felt great. I’ve been blessed to play a lot of college basketball so my experience is what really helped me know what to do and when to do it,” Hairston said “We have a lot of veteran players, so the situations that were thrown at us, we’ve seen before and our camaraderie and connectivity put us in position to win the game,” Hairston said.
The game would come down to the wire in the last minute, with the teams trading buckets up until the ball was in Towns’ hands with seconds remaining on the clock with a score of 74-71 in favor of the Bearcats. The veteran rose to the occasion, and off of a side-step three, Towns sent the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Bearcats continued to capitalize off offensive boards due to their size, which ultimately served as the downfall of the Bison. Although the Bison would never give up fighting, they would come out on the losing end with a final score of 86-81.
Towns scored 24 points and had seven rebounds while playing a lofty 40 minutes in the game. Hairston chipped in 11 points and junior guard Marcus Dockery added 13 points.
Kenneth Blakeney, coach of the Howard men’s basketball team, believes even in a loss, the experience of playing these Power Five universities so early in the season will pay dividends down the line once they face these types of teams again in March.
“I think it is an opportunity to kind of test themselves [as players],” Blakeney said “It gives us as a coaching staff an opportunity to put our strategic hats on against some of the guys that go against top 25 teams game in and game out…it allows us an early upstart to kind of see where we are and to understand what it’s gonna take to get over the hurdle of being a top 25 program and winning those games.”
The Bison’s next game will be on Dec. 11, when they face off against Penn University; the team will then return to play Regent University on Dec. 13.
Copy edited by Daniel Young