For the second year in a row, Howard University beat Hampton after a long-time rivalry where the Pirates defeated the Bison. (Courtesy Photo)
By Mark Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Even without an entirely healthy roster, Head Coach Kenny Blakeney’s Howard Bison basketball team delivered, in what may be, a program changing victory with an 81-76 win over the Hampton Pirates.
Blakeney has already established a dominance over Hampton in the “Battle For The Real HU” rivalry by winning for the second consecutive season in a matchup that had previously been dominated by the Pirates.
“This was a total team win,” Blakeney said. “I’m so proud of the team and I’m happy for the Howard University community because this game means so much to a lot of people.”
Howard trailed by 10 points halftime and played without their marquee attraction, Makur Maker, and reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Rookie of the Year, Wayne Bristol. However, it was a trio of Howard’s players from the D.M.V. who paced their comeback after the intermission by scoring in double figures and rebounds and helping win the battle on the glass.
Howard’s comeback started with a critical run at the end of the first half. A layup from Davion Warren capped off an 8-0 run by Hampton and gave the Pirates their largest lead of the contest, 21-38, with less than three minutes before intermission.
Down by 17 late in the half, they finished on an 8-1 run and sliced the margin down to 10 at the break. Howard trailed only 39-29 halftime despite Hampton blistering the nets- shooting 60 percent from the floor to open the game.
“It was really important to go into the half on some momentum,” Blakeney continued. “We were able to push the tempo and put pressure on their defense.”
Steve Settle, III, a redshirt freshman from Glenarden, MD who leads the squad in scoring (13.3 PPG), made his presence felt in this rivalry. After serving as an understudy, Settle finished with 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. He had already earned MEAC Rookie of the Week on Dec. 8 after scoring a career-high 23 points in their loss to Bellarmine.
Meanwhile, Sam Green, a graduate student from Bowie, made a huge contribution with 13 points and 10 boards. Another Bowie native, junior Deven Richmond, made his first start as a Bison in place of senior guard Kyle Foster, who was a late scratch due to injury. Richmond finished with 18 points and five rebounds in the win. Sophomore guard Khalil Robinson almost notched a triple-double, after finishing with a career-high 19 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds.
“I think we’re a really good offensive team,” said Blakeney. “I told the team it’s going to click for us and when it does, we’re going to build on that momentum and take control of the game.”
Howard capitalized on the momentum in the second half, where they cut the double-digit deficit within a matter of minutes.
With under 12 minutes remaining, Robinson converted a three-point play to give the Bison their first lead since making the game’s first basket. During Howard’s decisive 19-6 run, redshirt freshman Cam Timmons shot a jumper to cap off another run to lead 48-45.
With less than two minutes remaining, Robinson made two critical free throws to give Howard a 73-72 edge they wouldn’t lose. Down the stretch, Howard made 10-of-12 free throws in the final two minutes to secure their first win of the season.