Howard Opens Play Against University of Central Florida
Orlando, FL—December 28—The Howard University men's basketball team opens play in the UCF Holiday Classic against the host team, the Knights of UCF at 7 pm at the Orlando Arena. The other first round matchup pits Belmont against Boston University at 9:30 pm.
The Bison (3-11) enter the game trying to snap a two-game skid, the most recent a 79-55 road loss to Rutgers University a week ago. Howard is as well rested as it has been since the season started, having had six days off.
In an effort to jump start the Bison, head coach Kevin Nickelberry has shuffled the lineup for this game. Normal starters, guards Calvin Thompson and Simuel Frazier and center Alphonso Leary will be replaced by Anton Dickerson, Brandon Ford and Theodore Boyomo respectively.
In UCF, Howard again faces a formidable opponent. The Knights (7-3), from Conference USA, are one of the best shooting teams in the country, connecting on 51 percent from the field and over 41 percent from three-point range.
UCF is very athletic and explosive, but the Bison have proven that their defense and rebounding has been solid in games against the likes of Big East powers Pitt and Rutgers. However, defense and rebounding have not been the problem; it has been the inability to score and lack of depth and production from the bench.
Senior forward Mike Phillips has been the team's most consistent performer, averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting a team-high 50 percent, the best of his career. Thompson, a red-shirt senior guard, is the team's second leading scorer and Frazier, a sophomore guard, has been able to provide some offensive spark despite logging almost 36 minutes per game.
In the tournament, the Bison will be looking to get more production from the bench and Coach Nickelberry will use this as a catalyst for the conference season, which gets underway in earnest on January 5 at Coppin State.
The winner of the Howard-UCF game will advance to tomorrow's championship against the winner of the other first round match between Belmont and Boston University.