Undermanned Bison Battle But fall Short in Loss To Oregon State

11/27/2010, 11:02 p.m.
President Obama and the his family visited Howard University to watch the basketball game between Howard and Oregon State University. Craig Robinson head basketball coach at Oregon State is the First Lady's brother. Photo by Rodney Pierce

Anton Dickerson scored a game- and career-high 24 points and Dadrian Collins added 15 in a spirited effort, but it was not enough to offset the combined performance of Jared Cunningham and Joe Burton, who combined for 26 second half points as Oregon State pulled away to an 84-74 win over Howard University in a non-conference game at Burr Gymnasium.

The game was highlighted by the presence of President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at the game. They were there to support Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson, who is the brother of Michelle.

The First Family was treated to an entertaining and highly competitive contest that featured several ties and lead changes before the Bison took a 33-32 lead at halftime. The Beavers (3-2) were paced by the scoring of Omari Johnson, who tallied 12 of his team-high 17 points in the first half on 5 of 8 shooting.

Howard (1-5) countered with a balanced attack, led by Collins with 9, Alphonso Leary with 7 and Dickerson with 6.

Due to injuries, the Bison are playing with only seven scholarship players and are relying on three walk-ons. However, that did not deter them as they battled and hustled against the taller and more talented visitors from the PAC-10. (An image slide show is can be seen at the bottom of this article

"Our guys are battling and trying to compete," said Howard first year head coach Kevon Nickelberry. "They have been put in some tough situations. I'm going to coach for 40 minutes and I am going to give them everything I've got. I tell them to just give me everything they've got and we'll have a shot."

But in the early part of the second half, Oregon State began to flex on the play of Burton, who muscled his way to 13 points, connecting of six of seven from the field and Cunningham, who did most of his damage getting to the foul line, where he converted on 9 of 10.

Howard was hampered even further by foul trouble as Collins and Cuffee and Mike Phillips were all saddled with foul trouble. And if that was not enough, Leary lost a fingernail and played through it the second half.

Still the undersized and undermanned Bison refused to wilt and erased double-digit deficits on three different occasions to get the deficit down to a workable margin. Dickerson, a 6-2 sophomore guard from Brooklyn, NY, played a key role with a sizzling 4-of-5 shooting performance from three-point range that included a rare four-point play.

Equally important in the Bison's ability to keep it close was the surprise play of 6-5 sophomore reserve forward Gary Lawrence from Philadelphia, PA, who recorded his first ever double- double of 11 points and 11 rebounds. Both were career highs.

Oregon State was eventually able to put the game away as Cunningham, Calvin Haynes (4 of 4 from the free throw line in the second half) and Ahmad Starks hit their free throws to help the Beavers to a 74 percent shooting from the charity stripe in the second half.

"The team was tired," explained Nickelberry. "They kept bringing in people in and we just could not match them. Eventually it wore us down."

Johnson led the Beavers with 17, Burton and Cunningham finished with 15 each, and Starks came off the bench to tally 13.

The Bison were led by Dickerson's 24, Collins' 15 and Lawrence's 11. Mike Phillips contributed 9 and 9 rebounds and Leary added 7 and 5 rebounds.

NEXT UP: The Bison travel to Williamsburg, VA to take on William & Mary on Tuesday at 7 pm and will then play Hampton in the Big Apple Classic on Saturday, December 4 in Madison Square Garden at 7 pm and will conclude a three-day, six-game road trip with a game at Fairfield on Monday at 7 pm.