WILLIAMSBURG, Va.—Senior guard Calvin Thompson poured in a season-high 24 points and senior forward Mike Phillips continued his scoring assault with 20. But it was not enough to offset the balanced scoring of William & Mary, lead by junior guard Brandon Britt’s game-high 26 points, as the tribe topped Howard University 78-69 on Dec. 6 in a non-conference men’s basketball game at the Kaplan Center in Williamsburg, Va.
The Bison (2-8 overall) went toe to toe with the Tribe and played one of their best games of the season. Despite some torrid shooting by William & Mary (63 percent) in the first half, Howard was able to stay within striking distance at 38-30 on the efforts of Phillips, who tallied 12 points.
The Tribe (5-3 overall) was able to keep Howard at bay with scoring from Britt, who knocked in 12 points, and junior forward Kyle Gaillard’s 11 points.
Using its bench advantage and the Bison’s foul trouble, William & Mary threatened to put the game away with a mini-spurt that opened a 61-50 lead at the 8:22 mark of the second half. That is when Phillips and Thompson went to work, combining for 14 of their team’s 18 points and cutting the deficit to 73-67 with 1:31 on the clock.
But the uphill climb proved to be too much as the Bison missed some easy shots that the Tribe converted into baskets and free throws.
“Our lack of depth has been an issue all season,” said Howard Coach Kevin Nickelberry. “There was a stretch where it was a five- to seven-point lead by them and we had chances. But we missed some layups and some open threes and it proved to be pivotal. Moving forward, we have to be able to make those shots if we are going to come out victorious.” The Bison starters averaged over 35 minutes.
The game was marked by some unbelievable free throw shooting by both teams. At one point, they combined for 17-for-17 from the charity stripe. And therein was the difference as William and Mary converted on 21-of-24 in the second half while the Bison were just four-of-five.
“One of the things you cannot scout is free throw shooting,” said Nickelberry. “They got to the line and they made their free throws. It was a well-played game. Both teams played hard and did a good job of executing, but in the end it came down to free throw shooting attempts. That was the difference in the game.”
An area of improvement for the Bison, despite the lack of depth, was in the turnover department. After averaging almost 20 per game in the first eight games, Howard has turned the ball over only 13 times the past two contests, including three in this game, the lowest in five years.
Britt led all scorers with 26 points for the Tribe, while junior forward Tim Rusthoven and sophomore guard Marcus Thornton each had 13 to add to Galliard’s 11.
Thompson grabbed six rebounds to go along with his 24 points. Phillips connected on nine of 16 from the field, sophomore swingman Prince Okoroh contributed 11 and eight rebounds and sophomore guard Simuel Frazier dealt out a season-high eight assists with no turnovers.
Howard will see more action on Dec. 15 in a home game against Liberty.