Washington, DC– James “J-Byrd” Daniel, III nailed a three pointer with one second remaining to give Howard University a thrilling 61-59 win over Norfolk State in as Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game at Bur Gymnasium. The contest resembled a tournament game with all the ebbs and flows. There were 10 ties and 13 lead changes.
The Spartans (18-12, 11-4 MEAC) took the lead at 59-58 with 3:19 remaining in the extra frame on a Jeff Short layup. On Howard’s possession, Damon Collins was fouled at the 2:26 mark, sending him to the foul line. He missed both free throws but would go on to turn the ball over twice, leaving the door open for the Bison and Daniel’s heroics.
Following the second Norfolk State turnover, Howard gained possession with 17 seconds remaining. The Bison called a timeout and set up the play for Daniel, who dribbled the clock down and calmly launched the shot from the right side of the floor.
The 5-11 sophomore guard from Hampton, VA had missed a similar shot in Saturday’s loss to Hampton that would have won the game.
During the timeout, he said ‘Give me the ball’ and we did,” said Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry. “In a situation like that, you put the ball in the hands of the best scorer. It was a money shot. It’s funny how we ran the same play against Hampton a few weeks ago and he was not able to convert. But he was confident all along.”
Howard (16-14, 10-6 MEAC) won on a night when its leading scorer had an off night. James “JC” Carlton, who came into the game averaging almost 17 points per game, got into early foul trouble and was never able to get untracked, scoring a season-low 4 points.
Howard was able to offset the loss of Carlton with a huge lift from its bench, which outscored their counterparts, 25-7. Red-shirt junior center Oliver Ellison was a huge factor scoring 6 points, grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds and blocking a career-best 7 shots. Collins also made a significant contribution with 8 points while Brandon Ford chipped in with 5.
Miller scored 11 of his 13 in the second half and over time, but it was his defense that had Nickelberry excited.
“I have been getting on him to become a better defender,” he said. “He was aggressive in the second half. But I was most pleased with is his defense. He drew two big charges down the stretch.”
The Spartans came into the game in second place in the MEAC and had beaten the Bison in Norfolk, VA three weeks ago. The Bison defense was able to keep Norfolk State’s leading scorer, Jeff Short in check. He came into the game averaging 19 points per game but was held to 14 points, 12 coming in the second half and extra period. Rashid Gaston picked up the slack with 18 points and 15 rebounds for a double-double. But with the aggressive play of Ellison and sophomore forward Tyler Stone, Gaston managed only six points in the second half before fouling out in overtime.
Daniel led all scorers with 19 while Miller chipped in with 13.
Statistically, the Spartans held a decided edge: 40-28 on points in the paint, 42-34 in rebounding, 19-12 in points off turnovers and 17-12 in second chance points. But for Nickelberry, stats are secondary.
“I told them to keep fighting, even when sometimes it appeared as though we were overmatched by a strong, physical team,” he commented. “But I am proud of them because they never stopped fighting. I tell everyone this is a special group of young men. Here you have JC run out and pick up J-Byrd after he hit the shot. He had a bad game, but yet he was happy for J Byrd.”