Washington, DC-January 31---Mike Phillips scored a team-high 19 points to lead a balanced attack as all five starters scored in double figures in a 70-67 win over Delaware State in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's game at Burr Gymnasium.
The Bison (4-17 overall, 2-7 in the MEAC) played one of their better games of the season. After the two teams played to a 38-38 tie at the half, Howard came out of the blocks strong to start the second half, reeling off a 25-8 run in the first 11 minutes to open a 63-46 lead. The Bison were operating on all cylinders with freshman center Alphonso Leary and sophomore forward Phillips working the paint area and senior guard Kyle Riley, sophomore guard Anton Dickerson and sophomore forward Dadrian Collins doing their work from the perimeter.
"The game plan was to get the ball inside and take advantage of the mismatches," explained Howard first year head coach Kevin Nickelberry. "Once we established something inside, Mike and Alphonso did a good job of kicking the ball out to the shooters."
But just as quickly as the Bison were able to build a seemingly comfortable lead, the resilient Hornets (8-12 overall, 4-4 in the MEAC) would claw and scrap their way back into the game. DSU parlayed a box-and-one defense on Riley and it worked in disrupting the Howard offense while allowing the visitors to put together a 14-0 run that reduced the deficit to a workable 63-60 margin at the 3:45 mark.
Delaware State's Casey Walker, Jay Threatt and Marques Oliver combined to score 13 of the 14 points during the run. The Bison aided and abetted the Hornets' cause by missing shots and turning the ball over.
"Delaware State did a good job of adjusting by pressing Kyle and getting the ball out of his hands," said Nickelberry. "The other part of that is that we had two of our starters played 40 minutes and two others who played 39. It took its toll."
Following a timeout, Leary scored to stop the bleeding as Howard led, 65-60. Delaware State countered with a basket by Oliver to make it, 65-62. Dickerson hit a three pointer, only to have Threatt knock down a three pointer of his own and Oliver follow with a dunk after a turnover to close the deficit to 68-67 with 46 seconds remaining.
The Hornets called a timeout after running 24 seconds off the game clock. But DSU freshman guard Desi Washington mishandled the ball and turned it over to Howard. Phillips was fouled and went to the line where he sank both free throws with one tick to give the Bison their second straight win.
"I was very proud of the way we played tonight," said Nickelberry. "We hung in there and toughed out a win. Kyle was like a warrior for us. He was a big part of our success. He knows he has to handle the ball and keep the team under control."
Dickerson scored 14, Leary recorded 12 and 8 rebounds, Collins 14 and a career-high 5 assists and Riley with 11 and a career-best 7 assists.
The Hornets were led by Washington, who led all scorers with 20, 12 coming in the first half and Walker and Oliver, who contributed 15 and 14, respectively.
NEXT UP: The Hornets host North Carolina A&T on Saturday at 7 pm while the Bison will try to win their third straight when they host North Carolina Central University at 4 pm.