Lack of Production from Bench Again Dooms Howard
New York, NY-December 4--Mike Phillips poured in a career-high 20 points and Anton Dickerson added 19 but it was not enough to offset the production of the Hampton bench as the Bison lost to Hampton, 67-55 in the 5th Annual Big Apple Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Phillips, a 6-7 sophomore forward from Fredricksburg, VA, recorded a double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Dickerson, a 6-2 sophomore guard from Brooklyn, NY, tallied 14 of his points in the first half as the undermanned Bison (1-7 overall, 0-1 in the MEAC) battled the streaking Pirates (7-1 overall, 1-0 in the MEAC) through most of the contest.
Hampton which has now won seven in a row, was able to get some distance between them and their rival by using a late push to take a 34-27 lead to the locker room.
The Bison refused to fold, by opening the second half with a 14-7 run to tie the game at 41 – all with 13:18 on the clock. The run was spearheaded by Phillips and Dadrian Collins, who nailed back-to-back threes.
From there, it was a seesaw battle with neither team being able to take control until the Pirates got a shot in the arm from guard Mike Tuitt, who came off the bench to score 13 of his 15 points in the second half. He connected on 5 of 9 from the floor, including two treys. Meanwhile for the fourth straight game, the Bison were unable to get any production from the bench.
In Tuesday's loss to William & Mary, the Tribe outscored Howard 25-0, and in this game, the Pirates held a 17-0 advantage.
"We fought," said Howard first year head coach Kevin Nickelberry. "The problem is that we had four players who played nearly the whole game. We have only seven scholarship players and four walk-ons and they have been put in some tough situations. We are right there in these games but because they lack experience, it has put them in some tough situations in some crucial times in the game."
In addition to the lack of production from its reserves, Howard had another poor shooting performance from the charity stripe, missing seven of 19 attempts, many coming when the game was close enough to win.
"We have to do a better job at the free throw line," said Nickelberry. "It is important in close games. Because of our situation we have to be able to make free throws."
Nickelberry added that he was pleased with the efforts of Clint Cuffee, a walk-on point guard, who had his best game as a Bison, scoring six points, dealing out a career-high 8 assists and grabbing 6 rebounds in 38 minutes of play. Dadrian Collins, who came into the game as the team's leading scorer, finished with six points, missing 15 of his 17 attempts from the field.
"There is no need to feel sorry for ourselves," said Nickelberry. "What we have to take away from this game is to continue to get better and get a win."
Hampton was led by Charles Funches, who tied for the game lead with 20 while Tuitt had 15 and Pellum and Kwame Morgan each contributed 14 to the balanced attack.
NEXT UP: The Bison conclude the three-game, six-day road trip against Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT on Tuesday at 7 pm.