Bethune-Cookman Basketball: Previewing the Howard Bison

Cole, RJ
Freshman guard RJ Cole is among the nation’s leading scorers, averaging 22.1 points per contest to go along with 6.0 assists and 3.4 rebounds. (Source: HBCU Gameday) (Header: Bethune-Cookman Athletics)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Another snow storm has been wreaking havoc on the East Coast of the United States of America.

Snow has been falling down in the state of Florida, which is unusual to say the least. Up farther, snow and sub-zero temperatures in Washington, D.C. caused infrastructure damage to Burr Gymnasium, which caused a time and location change for Saturday’s tilt between the host Howard Bison and the visiting Bethune-Cookman Wildcats.

According to Bethune-Cookman men’s basketball on Twitter on Friday, the game was moved from 4pm to 6pm EST, and the game was going to be played at nearby Trinity Washington University. For those who are wondering, it’s about a five-minute drive from Burr Gymnasium to Trinity Washington University.

Saturday marks the second game of conference play for both teams. The Wildcats are tied atop the conference standings at 1-0, while the Bison fell in their first outing. Both are looking to pick up a win and give themselves a boost of momentum as conference play kicks into high gear.

Here’s what you need to know in advance of Saturday’s neutral court showdown between Bethune-Cookman and Howard.

Last Time Out

In their last outing, Bethune-Cookman rang in the New Year with a strong win at home over the South Carolina State Bulldogs to open up their MEAC slate. They used a big second half run to claw their way back from a first half deficit, and came away with an 86-80 win over the Bulldogs.

Point guard Malik Maitland tallied 15 points and 11 assists, while not committing a single turnover in the win. Shawntrez Davis recorded 17 points and 12 rebounds for his own double-double, while Brandon Tabb added 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the floor. The Wildcats used a 13-0 run in the second frame to get back into the game, and they came away victorious.


On the flip side, the Bison weren’t as successful as the Wildcats in their MEAC opener. Howard fell on the road against the Florida A&M Rattlers, 84-76. Howard led by five after the first 20 minutes, but allowed the Rattlers to score 50 points in the second frame for the come-from-behind victory.

Freshman guard RJ Cole scored 30 points to go along with seven assists, giving him a pair of 30+ point performances over his past three games. Charles Williams added 21 points of his own, while Kyle Foster rounded out a trio of Howard players in double figures with 11 points.


Previous Meeting

During the 2016-17 season, Bethune-Cookman and Howard met just once, on February 6th, 2017 in Daytona Beach, FL. Behind 18 points and eight assists from Diamante Lewis, the Wildcats came away with the 71-67 win over the Bison.

The loss was the fifth loss during a six game losing streak for Howard. The Bison held a slim one point lead at the half, but couldn’t hold off the Wildcats in the second frame. Williams scored a game-high 21 points in the loss, while J.T. Miller added 16 points and three rebounds.

All eight players who saw action for the Wildcats scored at least two points. Ulmer Manzie and Quinton Forrest scored 10 points apiece, while Reggie Baker recorded a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.


Players to Watch

Bethune-Cookman – Malik Maitland

After a down couple of games, junior point guard Malik Maitland put together arguably his best game of the season against South Carolina State in Bethune-Cookman’s 86-80 win to open up MEAC play. Maitland recorded 15 points, 11 assists, and zero turnovers in the victory. It was Maitland’s second double-double of the season with points and assists, and the second game in which he recorded zero turnovers. For the season, the transfer from the Morehead State Eagles is averaging 11.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and a team-best 5.1 assists per game in his first season with the Wildcats. As the season has moved along, Maitland has developed as a strong point guard for Ryan Ridder and company. Against the Bulldogs, he showed that he doesn’t let past performances affect his future games. He was just 1-of-14 from the floor against the Washington State Cougars in the game prior to his double-double against South Carolina State.


Howard – RJ Cole

Freshman guard RJ Cole has been one of the most dynamic scorers in the country this season, regardless of what team they play for or what year they’re in. Cole is coming off a 30-point showing against Florida A&M, and he posted 42 points just two games prior against the UNC Wilmington Seahawks. He has recorded at least 15 points and three assists in every game this season for the Bison, and is averaging a team-best 22.1 points and 6.0 assists per contest. The native of Union, NJ wasted little time in making an impact this season, recording 23 points and six assists in his debut against the George Washington Colonials. Against the Wildcats, Cole will look to continue his impressive play this season, but will be in tough against the balanced back court of Bethune-Cookman.


Prediction

Even though the game is being played just five minutes from Howard’s home gym, the change of venue boosts the chances for the Wildcats, as both teams are playing in unfamiliar territory.

The Wildcats will have to contain the duo of RJ Cole and Charles Williams on the back end, which is no easy task, as the pair have combined to average more than 40 points per game to start the season. However, up front, the Bison need to find a way to negate the impact that the likes of Shawntrez Davis and Soufiyane Diakite can have on both ends of the floor.

Up front, the edge goes to Bethune-Cookman, as Davis has been playing some impressive basketball in his first season with the Wildcats. If he can continue his dominance up front, Bethune-Cookman will return to Florida with a big road win.

Bethune-Cookman – 81
Howard – 77

– T. Bennett