2023 MEAC Basketball Tournament: Howard routes South Carolina State 91-55 in Quarterfinals
The Men’s side of the 2023 MEAC Tournament tipped off with the one-seed Howard Bison defeating the eighth-seed South Carolina State Bulldogs 91-55 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday evening at the Norfolk Scope.
The Howard Bison (19-12 overall and 11-3 conference play), are the 2022-2023 MEAC regular season champions. This is the Bison’s first outright regular season title since 1987. Howard won the MEAC regular season title again in 1992, however, they had to share the honor with North Carolina A&T, who now compete in the CAA conference. Howard went into the tournament after closing out their regular season by defeating Norfolk State, the team who has won the previous two MEAC tournaments.
The Bison had three players score in double digits on the evening. Sophomore Guard Bryce Harris led the way for the Bison in the matchup as he was responsible for 20 points (led all scorers) and 7 rebounds off the bench while shooting 61 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Elijah Hawkins, who led the team in scoring during the season (13.4 points per game), contributed 10 points in the affair. Freshman forward Shy Odom, who was recently named MEAC Rookie Player of the Year, added 13 points and 4 assists in the contest against the Bulldogs. Howard led 38-21 at halftime, but the Bison continued to stretch their lead early in the second half and led by as many as 43 points.
Howard Basketball received recognition as the MEAC announced their regular season awards this past Tuesday. Head coach Kenneth Blakeney, who has been at the helm since 2019, was named MEAC coach of the year. Blakeney officially becomes the first Howard coach to win Coach of the Year since former head coach Alfred Beard won the award in the 1991-1992 season, respectively. As mentioned prior, freshman forward Shy Odom earned the Rookie of the Year Award. Odums averaged 10.6 points per game (top-15 in conference scoring average) and scored double figures 14 times throughout the regular season. Odum now becomes the second consecutive Howard player to win the Rookie of the Year award (Elijah Hawkins 2021-2022), respectively.
South Carolina State (5-26 overall and 4-6 in conference play), were led by Junior Guard Cameron Jones who scored 14 points off the bench. Sophomore Guard Lesown Hallums added 10 points in the affair, but the Bulldogs struggled to shoot from the field as they collectively shot 32.8 percent.
Erik Martin, who has been the head coach since the 2022-2023 season began, experienced his first full season as a head coach after serving as an assistant coach at West Virginia for fifteen years (‘07-’22), respectively. Martin conveyed his thoughts on the route and what he hoped his team would do better.
“We lost tonight to the best team in the league, they had a great game plan, but I would have liked to play better. I thought our guys were ready for this game and to be honest I thought we were going to be too hyped at the beginning of the game, but we settled in. But we can't turn the ball over and we can't miss layups,” Martin stated.
The Bulldogs accounted for 20 turnovers throughout the duration of the matchup Wednesday night. The first-year head coach discussed what he learned about this season and how he will approach his team going forward
“I got a lot to learn. I don’t know if it’s arrogance, I am sure that every coach says they can come in and turn this around, but you cannot prepare to be a head coach unless you sit in that seat. Losses will humble you and maybe I needed to be humbled,” Martin said.
Howard will play on Friday night in the Semifinals, as they await the winner of No. 4 Maryland Eastern-Shore and No. 5 Morgan State.