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Bison Continue Winning Streak on MLK Day After Disappointing Start 

Howard University Men’s Basketball team emerged victorious in MLK Day game against Morehouse College.

2024 MLK game in Burr Gymnasium. (Branson Brooks/ The Hilltop)

After reaching a 5-11 record in early January, it looked like the Howard University Bison suffered a fall from the NCAA tournament grace, achieved just last season. However, a MLK Day win against Morehouse College extended the Bison’s winning streak to three games, and they now look to be back on track.

Ose Okeje, a sophomore forward for the team, spoke to The Hilltop regarding a turning point victory against La Salle after going through an adversity-filled season in the final months of 2023.

“It feels great, honestly. Just us as a collective coming together with all the trials and tribulations we have faced so far, never losing faith in our abilities… the win against a well-coached (Atlantic Conference) team was an awesome way to end off our year right,” Okeje said.

 Sophomore guard Ose Okeje in a December game against La Salle University. (Photo Courtesy of @humensbb/@harmonylovesmedia)

Since then, the team has gone 3-2 this year, suffering two losses to Yale University and North Carolina Central University but coming out victorious against two MEAC opponents in South Carolina State University with a final score of 82-78, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore with a score of 61-72. 

The MLK Day game against Morehouse gave the team a chance to finally hit a consistent stride while also continuing to play the sport they love on an important day for the Black community.

Joshua Strong, a point guard for the team, talked about his expectations for Howard University’s Burr Gymnasium going into the matchup with Dr. King’s alma mater. 

“I’m expecting a great environment for HBCU hoops. The history of the day, and both universities makes the game a special one. It’ll be another opportunity for us as a program to hit our stride and compete against a good program,” Strong said. 

The coach of the Howard men’s basketball team, Kenneth Blakeney, also noted the privilege to be able to play basketball on MLK day.

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“It’s a moment of reflection for me,” Blakeney said. “To really be able to play on Dr. King’s holiday kind of makes you put things in perspective and take a step back to really think and celebrate a man’s life that has touched the world and will continue to touch the world throughout the history of our planet. Plus, he’s a Morehouse grad, so it’s really neat for us to have and host Morehouse every year for our Martin Luther King game.”

As far as the actual on-court matchup, Morehouse came into the game with an 8-5 record overall while being 1-1 in 2024. Morehouse has some notable size on their roster while also having great depth, with six of their players averaging eight points or more.

Morehouse would also come in with additional motivation from losing last year’s MLK game in an ecstatic environment.

Some notable names on their roster include Cedric Taylor III and Keyshawn Pagues, two leading scorers. Morehouse’s Maroon Tigers also features Demetrius Clip II, who starred in season two of the Netflix original show “Last Chance U” and transferred to Morehouse after two seasons at East Los Angeles College.

The game was competitive from the start, as the Bison were unable to find an answer for Taylor III, leading to his nine early points. The Bison found themselves down for a light portion of the first half until guards Seth Towns and Marcus Dockery were able to get the team going from outside, including Towns knocking down three three-pointers in a row to make the score 26-18 in favor of the Bison. 

Fans gather in Burr Gymnasium to support the Howard Bison. (Branson Brooks/ The Hilltop)

Taylor III ended the first half with 16 of Morehouse’s 36 points. The Bison scratched ahead to a 39-36 lead going into halftime.

The battle of HBCUs remained close during the second half of the game. The Bison saw Bryce Harris, a forward for the Bison, score points to keep his team above water, but the Bison were never able to pull away. With five minutes to play, the Bison held a narrow 63-62 advantage.

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The game would come down to the last minute with Taylor III scoring his only points of the second half with six seconds on the clock to cement the 78-72 Bison victory.

Harris was ecstatic to win their third game in a row. 

“It feels great, honestly. That’s the name of the game,” He said. “You wanna string together wins. We’re trying to prepare ourselves for conference play. I feel like coming in and getting this (win) will give us the confidence we need to be able to come out and get the job done for the next game.” 

Copy edited by Jalyn Lovelady

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