Howard Tries to Extend Home Streak
The Howard University men's basketball team will look to win its second home game of the year when it hosts Liberty University on Saturday at 4 pm in Burr Gymnasium. It will be the Bison's last home game of 2012.
Following a rough start that featured some second half collpases, the Bison have shown marked improvement the past two games. It all started when Howard played a strong second half in the home win over a good American University team.
Through the first 8 games, Howard was averaging almost 19 turnovers per game that their opponents converted into an average of 20 points per game.
The improvement carried over to the William & Mary game. Despite losing 78-69, the Bison out-rebounded their opponent, sophomore point guard Simuel Frazier recorded 8 assists and zero turnovers while Thompson and Phillips combined for 44 of their team's points.
The difference in the game was the Tribe's depth and free throw shooting where William and Mary made 28 of 31 to the Bison's 8 of 9.
"The thing I like about this group is that they battle and they never quit," said Howard Coach Kevin Nickelberry. "We are improving each game. We are taking better care of the ball, we still rebound the basketball well and we are beginning to have people understand their roles."
Nickelberry singles out seniors Thompson and Phillips, who have been scoring well of late, Frazier, who has cut down on the turnovers and Prince Okoroh and Alphonso Leary, who have made subtle contributions.
Thompson, who has been injured a lot during his career, is an offensive force when he is healthy. The 6-3 red-shirt senior guard, has proven to be hard to defend with his ability to get into the lane and draw fouls. He is an excellent foul shooter.
Phillips is having his best season, having scored in double figures in the past five games and 8 of the 10 played. The 6-7 senior forward had recorded two double doubles this season. He has always been a force around the basket but this year he has a nice mid-range game that has added another dimension to his game.
First freshman recruit Keon Hill went down with a knee injury before the season even started. Then Thompson, who also plays the point, had his should pop out, leaving Frazier as the only true point guard suited up. The 5-11 sophomore was forced to log a lot of minutes and it took its toll, especially in the second half of some of the losses when fatigue became a factor.
But since Thompson has returned from the injury, Frazier has cut down exponentially on the turnovers, highlighted by 13 assists and only 3 miscues in the past two games despite logging an average of 36 minutes.
"When we play tough defense, rebound and take care of the ball, we have a chance," explained Nickelberry. "We have played a very challenging schedule and have learned a lot about what we need to do to win ball games."
Okoroh and Leary have proven to be steady on the boards and on defense. A 6-5 sophomore forward, Okoroh has done an outstanding job on the opponents' top wing player as well as being one of the reasons the Bison are having their success in rebounding.
Leary is 1 6-11 junior center, who has been consistent in scoring for the most part. But his value to the team is the defensive area where he already has 16 blocks on the season and has gives the Bison a legitimate post presence.
In the Flames (1-8), Howard is facing a team that is struggling, having won their first game against Southern Virginia last week.