NORFOLK, Va. – Sophomore guard R.J. Cole, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year, recorded game highs of 23 points and nine assists to lead Howard University to an 80-71 victory over Bethune-Cookman University in the quarterfinals of the MEAC Tournament on Thursday night inside Norfolk Scope Arena.
Cole scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half to charge the Bison to a 36-25 advantage going into the locker room.
Howard (17-15) increased its cushion to 13 points early in the second half, but Bethune-Cookman (14-17) chipped away at the deficit over the next eight minutes. A three-point play by BCU junior guard Malik Maitland cut Howard’s advantage to just two points at 49-47 with 11:03 left to play.
The Bison answered the BCU run with one of its own, outscoring the Wildcats 11-2 during the next five minutes to push the lead back to double figures after the first of three straight 3-pointers by freshman guard Raymond Bethea Jr. at the 6:41 mark.
Howard moved ahead by as much as 14 points, then cruised the rest of the way to advance to the MEAC semifinals against Norfolk State University on Friday at 6 p.m., which will be the second semifinal appearance for the Bison in the past three years.
“R.J. took the game over in the beginning, and C.J. (Williams) took it over in moments with some spectacular shots, and we had enough guys off the bench who made shots,” said Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry. “I told them in the locker room, this wasn’t our best game, which means we’re a real good team. We’re young, but we’re talented.”
Among Howard’s four double-digit scorers, junior guard Charles Williams contributed 18 points, with 13 coming after intermission, while Bethea and redshirt junior guard Chad Lott added 11 points each.
Bethune-Cookman also had four players to score in double figures, topped by junior forward Cletrell Pope with 19 points and 14 rebounds to break the MEAC single-season record with his 22nd double-double.
Source: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference