PHILADELPHIA, PA. - Howard University suffered still another injury to a key player and it proved to be too much as the Bison fell to Robert Morris University, 72-53 in the Philly Classic at the Palestra.
Howard (2-4) came into the tournament without the services of starting point guard Julius Hearn, who suffered a knee injury that will require surgery that could shelve him for most of the season. As if that was not enough, freshman guard Kyle Riley, who has been big off the bench this season, suffered a ankle sprain in the win over LaSalle and did not play in the loss to Loyola of MD.
Then starting forward Randy Hampton was forced to sit out most of the second half of the Loyola game with a possible fracture of his right thumb. That left the undermanned Bison with only nine players in uniform and it was a factor.
Robert Morris (3-2) jumped out to an early lead by using full-court pressure and liberal use of its bench to wear down Howard, which was playing its fourth game in seven days.
"They were able to get an early lead and get into a comfort zone," said Howard Coach Gil Jackson. "And with a lack of experience on the court for us, we were not able to respond."
The Bison sometimes had as many as four freshmen on the floor and it showed as they committed 23 turnovers that resulted in 29 of Robert Morris' points. With the short bench, Howard was outscored, 17-1 by the Robert Morris reserves.
"I thought not having Randy out there was very crucial for us," said Jackson of Hampton, a junior transfer from Drexel. "He is one of our more experienced players."
The Bison trailed by as many as 15 in the first half, but as they have shown throughout the early season, they fought back and got to within 10 at the half.
But possible fatigue and mistakes factored in and allowed Robert Morris to go on an early 15-5 run at the start of the second half that all but put the game away.
Junior forward Eugene Myatt again led the way for the Bison, tallying 18 points while sophomore forward Kandi Mukole (14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks) and freshman forward Adam Walker (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) contributed to the effort.
Robert Morris was led by Tony Lee and A.J. Jackson, who each scored 15 and Jeremy Chappell who added 11.
The Bison, who have dropped two straight after winning two in a row, have to regroup quickly as they host Navy on Tuesday at 7 pm in Burr Gymnasium and then take on Hampton on Saturday, December 1 at 9 pm in Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple Classic.
"We have to now focus on Navy because that is our next game," explained Jackson. "We will have to evaluate the injury situation to see how that plays out. But the Hampton game is especially huge for us because it is our conference opener, it's in Madison Square Garden and they are the pre-season favorites."