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Home Sports College Originally published December 16, 2012

Howard’s Second Half Defense Powers Win over Liberty

Howard University Basketball--Men

by Ed Hill Jr.
Special to the AFRO

    Senior forward Mike Phillips helps lead Howard to a 60-53 win over Liberty on Dec. 15. (Courtesy Photo/Howard Sports)
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Howard University Bison parlayed solid second half defense with scoring from senior guard Calvin Thompson, who tallied 11 of his 13 points in the second half, and sophomore guard/forward Simuel Frazier, who contributed 8 of his 12 points after intermission, to defeat the Lynchburg, Va. Liberty University Flames 60-53 in a non-conference game Dec. 15 at Burr Gymnasium in Washington, D.C..

The Bison (3-8) used a 15-1 run over the first eight minutes of the second half to erase a seven-point halftime deficit and take a 40-33 lead. Thompson and Frazier led the charge, but they benefitted from some stingy defense. Switching to a trapping zone scheme, Howard forced the Flames (1-9) into several turnovers while allowing only one field goal and a free throw during the run.

“We changed from a man-to-man to a zone defense in the second half and it proved to be very effective,” said Howard Coach Kevin Nickelberry. “We were able to use our length and it helped cut down on the threes. It definitely changed the tempo.”

After connecting on five of 14 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, Liberty missed 8 of 12 in the second half.

Liberty refused to go away, however, and made the game interesting when it put together an 8-2 run over a two-minute span to get within one point with 44 seconds remaining.

But the Bison defense regrouped and toughened up, holding the visitors scoreless the rest of the way. Thompson and Frazier teamed with senior forward Mike Phillips and senior guard Tre Lee to make plays that gave Howard its second win in the past three games.

“There is no secret to what we want to do,” said Nickelberry. “We are going to go through Thompson and Phillips and Frazier is the one who is going to get them the ball in good situations. People second guessed me when Sim [Frazier] was making turnovers early in the season. But I never stopped believing in him and now it is paying dividends.”

Frazier recorded six assists and committed no turnovers in 38 minutes of play, marking the second straight game that he has not had a turnover. He has 19 assists and only three turnovers in the past three games.

Phillips, who is playing the best basketball of his career, led all scorers with 19 while Thompson tallied 13 and Frazier with 12. Alphonso Leary was again a force on the defensive end with 10 rebounds while Tre Lee scored four clutch points in the second half.

The Flames were led by Davon Marshall, who scored 8 of his team-high 13 in the first half, and Casey Roberts, who added 11.

Despite being out rebounded, the Bison came away with a 32-12 advantage in the paint.

NEXT UP: Howard travels to Corvallis, Oregon to take on Oregon State on Wednesday Dec. 19 at 10 pm Eastern Time and will then trek back to the East Coast for a game against Rutgers in New Jersey on Friday Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.