Howard Face Aggies For Third Time In Opening Round Play
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - March Madness will officially begin in earnest for the Howard University men's basketball team on Tuesday, March 9 when the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament gets underway at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC. The tournament runs through Saturday and a champion will be crowned and receive the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Bison enter the tournament as the Number 8 seed and they will match up against North Carolina A&T (10-21), the Number 9 seed at 9 pm. Both teams struggled down the stretch as the Bison closed out their season with a five-game losing streak while the Aggies dropped their last four contests.
Howard (7-24) swept the Aggies this season, winning 82-77 in Greensboro, NC on January 16 and prevailing, 59-49 in February 13 at Burr Gymnasium. Howard sophomore guard Calvin Thompson was a key in both victories, pouring in a career-high 33 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in the game at Corbett Sports Arena and then getting a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds at Burr Gymnasium.
"Both games were pretty close and we were able to get the wins," said a cautious Howard Coach Gil Jackson. "But we have to forget about those games because this is a new season. I am sure that they will make some adjustments to some of the things we did to be successful. We just have to be focused and ready to play."
North Carolina A&T's Tavarus Alston, a second team 2010 All-MEAC selection, paced the Aggies with 19 points in the first game but was held to 8 in the rematch at Howard. The most important stat was that the Bison forced the Aggies, who love to shoot the three ball, into a combined 11 of 49 shooting effort from beyond the arc.
"A&T uses their press very effectively and then they switch to man-to-man," explained Jackson, who has won three of the last four against Howard's biggest rival. "In order for us to be successful, we are going to have to utilize our inside game with Paul (Kirkpatrick), Adam (Walker) and Mike (Phillips). And we have to convert our free throws. That is pivotal."
Jackson's point on free throws is well taken: In the past three games, all losses, Howard has shot only 49 percent (38 of 75) from the charity stripe.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinal round against Morgan State, the Number 1 seed on Wednesday at 7 pm.