Senior forward Mike Phillips scored a season-high 21 points and senior guard Tre Lee added a career-best 18 to lead the Howard University Bison to a 63-44 win over the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) men's game at Burr Gymnasium in Washington D.C. on Feb. 9.
It was the fifth straight loss for the Hawks (1-18, 1-7 in the MEAC) while the Bison (6-18, 3-7 in the MEAC) chalked up back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Phillips connected on four of seven from the field in the first half and four of six from the free throw line for 12 points while Lee hit on four of his five shots for 11 points to help Howard build a 33-20 lead at the half. The Bison defense also played a role, as they forced the Hawks to miss 17 of their 26 shots and forced 10 turnovers.
“Obviously in this league, you need upperclassmen to win,” Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry said about the play of his seniors. “Mike stepped up along with Tre Lee. It was time for Mike and all the seniors to step up and they showed it in this game through their experience and leadership.”
Howard was able to maintain a double-digit lead through most of the early part of the second half as other players began to make contributions. Junior center Alphonso Leary was a factor defensively and on the boards, leading all rebounders with nine. Senior guard Anton Dickerson gave the Bison offense off the bench with nine points on three key three-pointers, while sophomore guard/forward Prince Okoroh supplied all-around play with eight points, five rebounds and some high energy.
“When you have a point guard like Tre Lee rebounding like he was, it can only help the team,” Nickelberry said. “Prince is a maniac on the boards and his effort is contagious. When you have a guy who can impact the game like that without scoring, the effort rubs off on the rest of the team.”
Lee, who made only his second start at the point guard position, had a solid all-around game with six rebounds and four assists to go along with his 18 points.
“Tre stepped into a tough situation and was leading us from a vocal standpoint,” said Nickelberry. “When they went on runs, he was the voice that calmed everyone down and kept everyone focused. It is good when it is not coming from me.”
UMES was led by senior center Olatunji Kosile, who came off the bench to lead his team with 11 points. No other Hawks player scored in double figures.
The margin of victory was the largest for Howard this season.
“In the second half of the season, we did not have to play the top four or five teams in the MEAC and that benefitted us,” said Nickelberry. “People like to write us off. But we have had a lot of injuries and lot of things going wrong. That time we had off, we used to practice and we were able to get better. It helped not only our starters, but everyone else. We needed it.”
NEXT UP: UMES travels to Norfolk, Va. to take on Norfolk State on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. while the Bison conclude their current four-game home stand with a showdown with Morgan State at 7:30 on Feb.11 in Burr Gymnasium.
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