By Joshua Heron
Howard University News Service
Howard University’s men’s basketball team trampled the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers 89-65 in the MLK Classic.
The team shot 52% from the field and 48% outside the arc. Five players scored in double digits, with guard Elijah Hawkins leading the way with 15 on 67% shooting from the field.
The victory sets Howard at .500 with a 10-10 record.
In honor of civil rights activist the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it was only fitting that Howard’s Burr Gymnasium would behold the multitudes. Music reverberated through the arena as students, alums of both Morehouse and Howard, and NBA stars rested in their seats. Once the seats were swallowed, the railings became resting places for anyone who dared to enter Burr 30 minutes before the game.
The minutes winded down, and the choir draped in blue gowns fed our souls with their rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Then, Howard would lift their play and hand Morehouse a Mecca beatdown.
The game started relatively messy, with turnovers by both teams. Morehouse would strike first with a bucket from senior forward Kerry Richardson. Richardson accounted for 10 of Morehouse’s first 15 points. The Tigers 15-12 lead in the first half would be the only lead they would experience.
A 9-0 run by the Bison gave them a 21-15 lead with 8:30 left in the first half. A three by Elijah Hughes, who led the game with 15 points at the five-minute mark, extended Morehouse’s deficit to 11, with Howard possessing a 29-18 lead.
As Howard students sang “That Girl Is Poison” in tandem, Howard’s hustle would be poisonous to the Tigers. The Bison sucked the life out of their opponent. Sophomore guard Bryce Harris, who finished with 11 points, capped off a monstrous half with a dunk, giving the Bison a 40-23 edge over Morehouse.
Howard’s aggression persisted in the second half. Though up, the now 10-10 Bison played as if they were down.
It’s as if the presence of NBA stars was the motivation that Coach Kenny Blakeney’s team needed. Hawkins’ motivation was revealed through his flashy playmaking, hustling and ability to get to the basket.
With 12:33 left in the game and Morehouse drowning, Howard students began the wave. Over the next few minutes, arms raised across Burr, the lead extended to 39. Howard reserves entered the game, and Kirk Franklin’s “Melodies From Heaven” permeated through the gymnasium.
If the culture of Howard could be summed up in one night, it would be this one.
Redshirt freshman Ayodele Taiwo chased after the ball with his team up 30 with under two minutes left in the game. The Burr choir, also known as excited Howard students, followed his effort, chanting Morehouse goodbye back to Atlanta. Junior forward Steve Settle III waved his towel in congruence with the chants, and the Howard University Bison would cement a dominant performance.
Settle, who is averaging 11.4 points per game in 31 minutes of action, told HU News Service his thoughts on the game against Morehouse.
“I think the team performed very well against Morehouse, and we handled our business like we were supposed to,” Settle said. “We’ve been investing a lot into our success. So, I think Monday night was an example of us receiving our return on investment for all the hard work we’ve been putting in.”
A successful weekend that included an away victory against Norfolk State 86-84 gives Settle hope for his squad, which sits fifth in the MEAC with a 2-1 conference record.
“After the weekend we just had, this lets us know we have everything we need to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” Settle said.
The junior forward is cognizant of the impact those in attendance had.
“Credit to the Howard community for igniting the Burr and making it an atmosphere and night to remember for everyone,” Settle said.
After the game, there was a panel on the intersection of sports and culture featuring NBA players Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors and Johnny Davis of the Washington Wizards, Andscape’s senior NBA reporter Marc Spears, Warriors chief legal officer David Kelly and Howard head coach Kenny Blakeney.
Four-time NBA champion Iguodala likened the atmosphere in Burr to his “first time in Africa.”
Despite the score, this game is a testament to Martin Luther King Jr., a man who was called to champion for a people. A people oppressed, depressed and oblivious to the taste of success. His life was a vessel used to ensure people like HBCUs students, whether a Bison or Tiger from his alma mater, can reach the mountaintop he envisioned some 60 years ago.
The Bison will face off against Morgan State at 4 p.m. Saturday in Burr Gymnasium. A victory against Morgan State, which possesses an unblemished MEAC conference record, will boost the confidence of an already strong team.
Joshua Heron is a sports reporter for HUNewsService.com and The Hilltop.