Thompson Helps Howard Advance To Quarterfinal Round
Winston-Salem, NC—March 6--Calvin Thompson scored eight of his team-high 15 points, including a three pointer and a key basket to help Howard University edge North Carolina A&T, 51-50 in the opening round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men’s tournament at the LJVMC.
The Bison, the Number 10 seed advance to the quarterfinal round
where they will take on
Norfolk State University, the Number 2 seed, on Wednesday at 8 pm.
The game was a defensive struggle from beginning to end with neither team being to establish anything offensively. Neither shot over 31 percent from the field and they combined for 33 turnovers between them.
Howard (10-20), which starts four freshmen, did get off to a good start and took a six-point lead early on the scoring of Thompson (seven points), Prince Okoroh and Glenn Andrews, who each contributed six points.
But the Aggies (12-20), the Number 7 seed, would rally on the
scoring of DaMetrius Upchurch
(nine points) and Adrian Powell (six points) to take a 29-24 lead to the locker room.
The second half proved to be a grind-it-out affair that featured a low scoring affair. There were six lead changes and five ties. The Bison held the slight upper hand as they limited North Carolina A&T to one field goal in the last 14 minutes. At one point, the Aggies scored 11 straight points from the free throw line.
“We like that style of play,” admitted a happy
Howard Coach Kevin Nickelberry. “We like to
make it ugly. It was a very physical game with great defense by both teams. The game plan was to not let them do what they do best—shoot the threes.”
In a game where defense sets the tone, someone had to make a play and for Howard, it came down to Thompson, the red-shirt junior guard from New Orleans. His first play came when he nailed a three pointer from the left corner to tie the game with 48 seconds on the clock.
Then Thompson made what proved to be perhaps the play of the
game when he drove the
middle and switched the ball from his right hand to his left while in the air to give his team a 49-48 lead with 32 seconds remaining.
“When I got the ball, I knew that I would have to come up with a play,” said Thompson,who also added four assists. “He (Austin Witter) had blocked my shot twice when I went to the right hand. So this time, I switched to the left and I was fortunate that it went in.”
The Aggies still had a chance but Howard junior forward Mike Phillips put pressure on them
when he converted two free throws to give his team a 51-48 lead with 25 seconds remaining. NC A&T responded on a drive by Upchurch with four seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one.
The Bison were able to run out the clock and secure their first
advance to the second round
since 2002-03. It also marked the first time that Howard has recorded double digit wins in a season since that same year.
The Aggies came into the game as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the conference. The Bison defense limited them to 1 of 11 and held their sharp shooting point guard March Hill scoreless.
“Give Howard credit,” said NC A&T Coach Jerry
Eaves. “They did a great job defensively. We
generally shoot a lot better but today we had some good looks but they just would not fall. You have to make baskets to win and we just missed too many shots.”
Powell led all scorers with 16 while Upchurch added 13 for the
Aggies. Howard was led by
Thompson’s 15, Okoroh’s 10 and nine from Simuel Frazier.