By Mark F. Gray
Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

Rarely, if ever, do a men’s and women’s basketball team become mirror images of one another but such was the case when Bethune Cookman University (BCU) visited Howard for early season Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games at Burr Gymnasium.  However, to borrow an analogy from boxing, styles make fights although these games were no contest.

It wasn’t the way the Bison expected to play in their home openers. The Wildcats men and women controlled Howard throughout both games in blowout victories. While there was no denying that both Bison teams have the talent to compete, each is in the midst of early season growing pains that need to be fixed if they hope to be factors when the MEAC Tournament begins in the first week of March.

The Howard University men’s and women’s basketball teams lost their games at Burr Gymnasium. (Courtesy Photo)

Bethune Cookman’s strength and athleticism were too much for Howard who found themselves losing the women’s game 75-59 and the men dealt with a similar fate falling 102-73.  The respectability of the final outcome doesn’t represent the dominance of the Wildcats who controlled the game throughout. BCU was the most physically mature of the teams and took advantage of the Bison’s inexperience. They capitalized on Howard’s defensive miscues while and controlling the paint. 

On the rare occasions when Howard got to the basket, Cookman’s lengthy defense was able to recover for blocked shots or rebounds which led to extended possessions or fast break chances.  Meanwhile, the Bison had no answers defensively for BCU forward Cletrell Pope, who scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to make his case for being MEAC Player of the Week. Pope not only made 11 of his 18 shots, he also grabbed eight defensive boards.  

Howard’s player of the year candidate Charles Williams struggled all night.  Despite using his explosiveness to create great scoring opportunities for himself, his shots didn’t fall.  Williams made only four of his 16 field goal attempts to finish with 15 points, and moved to third place on the MEAC’s all-time scoring list.  His game didn’t flow and it was clear he was pressing all night.

Freshman Wayne Bristol, Jr. was a beacon of hope for Howard.  Bristol finished with 25 points after making four of his six three-point shot attempts. 

Despite its new coaching staff, Howard fell to 2-14 after this latest setback.  It also was a disappointing performance following an earlier lethargic setback at Maryland-Eastern Shore in the preceding game just before the new year.

The women also had a tough night despite another big game from guard Ayanna Williams.  Williams scored 24 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead them. However, the Lady Bison did themselves by not protecting the ball.  Their 21 turnovers led to 30 BCU points and that was the difference in the game.

There is a lot of work to do in both locker rooms on the hilltop with Norfolk State visiting this weekend.