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Hampton beats Howard for first win of season

The SportsXchange

HAMPTON, Va. -- Hampton coach Ed Joyner calls freshman guard Deron Powers the ultimate politician because he likes to keep everyone else happy.

But a little selfishness never hurt a politician either.

Powers led all scorers with 22 points while dishing out six assists and picking up seven steals in 39 minutes as the Pirates picked up their first win of the season, 58-50 over Howard Saturday at the HU Convocation Center.

"We thought that he had breakout ability," said Joyner. "But we just told him you need to pick and choose your spots, and you need to be confident in yourself."

Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry was similarly impressed.

"We get a freshman point guard who had 22 points and (seven steals) against us," Nickelberry said. "He dominated the game, and we turned to street ball."

The game marked the home opener for Hampton (1-6) after playing its first six games on the road and was the MEAC opener for both teams.

It was befitting that Howard (1-7) and Hampton, two teams who came into Saturday's matchup having combined for one win in 12 games, would have trouble making shots and holding onto the basketball.

Both combined for more than 40 turnovers and less than 40 percent shooting, but Hampton was finally able to pull away after Howard center Alphonso Leary was ejected for a flagrant foul midway through the second half. At that point, the Pirates led by just 30-29 with 14:37 left.

"It was huge," Nickelberry said of the ejection. "We were doing what we do. We weren't making a lot of shots, but we were steady. We were playing together, but it's a lot my fault, because I probably put a lot of pressure on our guards to make plays when we didn't have a big in there. We've just got to get better."

The game, dubbed the Battle for the Real HU, was a struggle for both teams, with Howard shooting just 30 percent from the field (14-of-46) and committing 25 turnovers, while Hampton was 32 percent from the field (18-of-56) and turned the ball over 22 times.

However, the Pirates got timely 3-point shooting from Powers, who made two straight from behind the arc following Leary's ejection and had four in the game.

Calvin Thompson led Howard with 18 points and Mike Smith added 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Pirates were 0-for-the-first 4:30 of the game until breaking the drought with back-to-back 3-pointers from Powers, who led all scorers with 14 points, and senior guard Jasper Williams.

Powers also made consecutive 3-pointers in the Pirates' 8-0 second-half run after Leary's ejection as they extended their lead to 43-33 at the 7:54 mark.

Joyner said it was a concentrated effort to shoot from long range, given Howard's inside strength.

"I did tell them not to hesitate to knock it down," Joyner said. "I do think that we hit a point where we missed so many on the road, that we stopped taking them, and we started second-guessing ourselves."

Both teams struggled to get anything going inside in the first half as the two teams each shot less than 30 percent from the field. The Pirates shot 24 percent on 7-of-29 shooting, while the Bison shot 29 percent on 6-of-21 shooting, with neither team leading by more than four points.

Howard also turned the ball over 15 times in the first half, but Hampton only scored eight points off those turnovers, a concern for Joyner. But he said the win can be a building block for the future.

"We're trying to pick up the pace a little bit," Joyner said. "We're trying to let them run a little bit because they're young. And in that, we know they're going to make some mistakes, but we feel like if we do pick up and play with the effort that we think we can, we can make other people make mistakes too."

Williams, who has struggled shooting for the Pirates this season, hit 4-of-8 shots for 13 points.

The Pirates have now won 30 of the 35 games against the Bison since moving up to Division I in 1995.

"We've fought every ballgame," Joyner said. "I told them if they keep fighting, eventually they'll get a win, and if they get a win, they get confidence."

With Howard down three players for the year due to injury, Howard effectively has an eight-man roster to get through the season, and because of that, are playing more minutes than Nickelberry would like.

"We have to change our habits," Nickelberry said. "Our habits are, we get lazy with the basketball, and we turn it over. ... I'm not a big, make-an-excuse guy. We lost. And we have to fix it, and the only ones that can fix it is us."

NOTES: Mike Phillips scored 11 points for Howard, but just four of those came after halftime after Hampton coach Ed Joyner, Jr. had Dionte Adams guard him. Joyner called up Adams from the scout team. ... Turnovers and poor shooting, particularly from long range, have been recurring themes for the Bison, averaging 20 turnovers and just 23 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
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