NC Central Uses Late Surge to Defeat Howard
Washington, DC-February 5--Landon Clement scored 23 of 26 points in the second half including a clutch three pointer with the shot clock winding down, and CJ Wilkerson added 16 of his 20 points after intermission to lead North Carolina Central to an emotional 79-70 win over Howard in a non-conference men's game at Burr Gymnasium. The loss snapped a two-game win streak for the Bison (4-19).
The game was competitive from start to finish and Howard was able to get the upper hand in the first 20 minutes as Dadrian Collins (10 points), Anton Dickerson (9) and Kyle Riley (8) combined to help the Bison take a 34-28 lead to the locker room. The Eagles (11-10) got 15 points from Nick Chasten but Clement and Wilkerson, their two big weapons on offense, managed only seven points between them on a combined 3 of 11 shooting from the floor.
The two teams traded blows in the second half. First Howard extended its lead to 44-34 in the first six minutes. NCCU countered with a 17-6 run over a five-minute stretch to take a 51-50 lead. From there, it went back and forth with Wilkerson heating up for the Eagles with drives to the basket and trips to the foul line. Clement did most of his damage from long range, connecting on 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. His three pointer at the 3:52 mark gave NCCU some breathing room at 67-62.
Howard responded, however on a long three pointer by Collins and a free throw by Riley to make it 67-66, the Eagles with 1:25 remaining. Then came perhaps the biggest play of the game. The Bison played some tough defense and forced the visitors to use all but three seconds on the shot clock. It would prove to be just enough for the hot shooting Clement as he delivered a long three pointer from straight away to give the Eagles a 70-66 advantage with 31 second remaining.
"He just hit a tough shot," conceded Howard first year head coach Kevin Nickelberry. "We knew he could shoot. He wasn't hitting them earlier in the game, but down the stretch he just took over the game. Big time basketball players make big plays and he just made one."
From that point, the contest became heated and three technical fouls were assessed, resulting in trips to the foul line. Clement and Wilkerson were the main beneficiaries as they combined to score the remaining nine points from the charity stripe for the Eagles.
"It was very intense game, especially in the second half," said Nickelberry. "Their fans were really loud and they tried to come into our place and take over the game. The game became physical. They had no free throws in the first half and then in the second, they shot 28."
Another key factor in the outcome was the Bison lack of depth, something that has plagued them all season. Two of the starters played the entire 40 minutes and the remaining three averaged 38. NCCU, on the other hand, was able to utilize its bench and it seemed to make a difference late in the game.
"Their depth took over," said Nickelberry. "We played five guys the whole second half. But I like the fact that despite that, we didn't give up. We just told our guys to keep fighting, but unfortunately tonight it just wasn't enough." The NCCU reserves outscored their Bison counterparts, 15-0
Dickerson led the Bison with 24 points, two off his career high. Collins added 13, Mike Phillips 10, and Alphonso Leary tallied 8 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Riley, a converted point guard and the only senior on the squad, finished with 15 points and a career-high 8 assists while logging 39 minutes and handling the baseline to baseline full-court pressure of NCCU.
"Overall, we just weren't able to get baskets down the stretch of the game," said Riley. "We had a 10-point lead with 8 minutes left in the game, but we were not able to maintain it. You have to be able to hold on to leads."
Clement led all scorers with 26, Chasten with 20, 15 coming in the first half, Wilkerson with 16 and 6 assists and Jeremy Ingram with 10 off the bench.
NEXT UP: Howard returns to conference action as it concludes its current four-game home stand against the Bulldogs of South Carolina State at 8:10 pm in Burr Gymnasium.