Last season, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference was represented by the Hampton Pirates in the NCAA Tournament, and three teams overall made post-season appearances from the conferences.
One of those three teams just happens to be the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks, who took part in the 2015 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Saturday marks the first meeting between the two schools in 2015-16, and both teams are currently trending in the right direction in the conference standings. The Pirates are the conference’s top team, while the Hawks have put together a three-game conference winning streak to get back into the thick of things in the title race.
A win would go a long way for both teams as they keep on pushing towards the MEAC tournament and the ultimate prize of reaching the NCAA Tournament. Here’s what you need to know about both teams heading into Saturday’s showdown.
Time: 4:00pm EST
Location: Hytche Arena, Princess Anne, MD
Hampton Pirates (13-8, 8-1)
Coming into Saturday’s action, the Hampton Pirates are alone atop the MEAC standings, a full game ahead of the South Carolina State Bulldogs, who come in at 7-2. Consequently, the Pirates’ only loss in conference play came at the hands of the Bulldogs back on January 25th, 67-62.
Since their loss to the Bulldogs, the Pirates have won back-to-back contests, and have won 8 of their last 9 overall. However, their last time out raised a few red flags, even though they came away with the win.
After taking down the Norfolk State Spartans following their loss to South Carolina State, the Pirates turned their attention to Washington Adventist, an NAIA member institution, for a non-conference tilt. The Pirates struggled until late in the second half, needing a 15-0 run to pull out the 69-67 win. Star guard Quinton Chievous didn’t play in the game, but the Pirates did get 30 points from Reggie Johnson on the night.
It has yet to be announced if Chievous will miss Saturday’s game against the Hawks, but if he’s not in the lineup, it will be a huge blow to the Pirates’ chances. He does it all for Hampton on both ends of the floor. He can score (17.1 ppg), he can get rebounds (10.1 rpg), he has great court vision (2.4 apg), and he can shoot the ball well from the floor (55.9% FG). Without him in the lineup, there is a gaping hole for the Pirates. If he does suit up, he has the capabilities to take control of the game by himself.
The Pirates have a slew of other weapons that they will deploy on Saturday, led by guard Reggie Johnson. He’s the team leader in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per contest. Over the last five games, Johnson has upped his scoring average slightly, pouring in 19 points per game on average. He is dangerous from all over the floor, whether he’s shooting a mid-range jumper or from long distance.
With plenty of weapons at their disposal, the Hampton Pirates are looking to make it back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The road to the Big Dance isn’t an easy one, and the stretch run starts on Saturday against the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks.
Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (7-16, 4-4)
Early on in the 2015-16 seasons, wins were hard to come by for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks. Their struggles were well-documented, but they also seem to be behind them.
While they sit at 7-16 on the season, they have reeled off three straight conference wins after starting MEAC with a 1-4 record. Their recent surge has vaulted them out of the cellar in the conference, and put them right back in the middle of the race for the regular season conference title.
Their most recent triumph was over the Howard Bison, and they scored the win in convincing fashion. Devin Martin scored a team-high 21 points to lead the Hawks to the 85-67 victory on their home floor, which was arguably their biggest win of the season.
After a slow start to the season, the Hawks have seemingly taken flight and found their groove. Coach Collins has the guys playing with a heightened level of confidence, and that could spell bad news for the rest of the MEAC.
Senior forward Dominique Elliott has once again emerged as a go-to option on offense for the Hawks after a slow start to the season, and he has stepped up his presence on the defensive end of the floor. He has recorded two double-doubles in his last three games, including a 17-point, 12-rebound performance against the Bison. If Elliott can get going early against the Pirates, the Hawks will have a great chance of coming away victorious.
If Chievous misses the game for the Pirates, Martin should be able to put together a strong performance on Saturday afternoon. The Hawks’ leading scorer is averaging 17 points per contest, and not having to battle Chievous will be a point in favour of Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Coach Collins will look for more production from the likes of Ryan Andino, Thomas Rivera, and Dontae Caldwell, among others. Andino is struggling through a sophomore slump, averaging 5.7 points per contest, which is still good for the fourth-best mark on the team.
Getting big production from the role players will be crucial for the Hawks’ success down the stretch this season, and it starts on Saturday against Hampton.
Players to Watch
Brian Darden (G) – 14.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
Reggie Johnson (G) – 18.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2.1 spg
Jervon Pressley (F) – 6.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg
Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks
Devin Martin (G) – 17.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 spg
Bakari Copeland (F) – 10.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.4 apg
Dontae Caldwell (G) – 5.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.5 apg
Maryland-Eastern Shore 78