It was a tough loss. There’s no getting around that. Anytime a team can go up 14 in the second half of a basketball game, the thinking is that that squad should go on to take the win. And that’s precisely what happened when Howard University’s Isiah Warfield sank the second of his free throws with 16:55 left to go in regulation. At that point, dreams of beating Georgia Tech, a Power 5 team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, started to dance in everyone’s head.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Howard’s poor shooting from deep (6/21 from behind the arc after starting the game ¾), foul trouble (both Bryce Harris and Dom Coleman fouled out), and costly turnovers (eight in the second half) finally downed the game Bison and gave the Yellow Jackets the win. And after having hope that bordered on confidence of the upset win (HU came into Atlanta as 11.5 point underdogs), it would be easy to take away only the pain of a defeat that could have (should have?) been a win.
But that’s short-term thinking. The defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champs have a much bigger goal in mind than beating the team predicted to finish 13th in the ACC. As is always the case with D-I HBCU basketball, it’s a lot like Highlander—there can be only one. Only one representative from the MEAC can represent the conference in the NCAA tournament at the end of the season. Only the winner of the MEAC tournament (not the regular season) will be there. As disappointed as fans are at the loss, winning back-to-back MEAC tournaments (something that hasn’t been done since the 1980 and 1981 seasons) is far more important long-term for the program.
That doesn’t deny the importance of HBCUs beating PWIs (particularly Power 5 ones). HBCUs will always carry the chip on the shoulder of being robbed for athletic talent during integration and (in many cases) being underfunded in all aspects. There will always be pride in the underdog story. But the greater story would be building a program where the thought of beating a team like Georgia Tech isn’t a highlight of a season—it becomes the norm.
The next game the Howard men’s basketball team continues their road warrior ways with a game against James Madison (2-0 after their upset win over Michigan State and miraculous come-from-behind victory over Kent State) on Sunday at 4pm on ESPN+. If you’d like to support the program being built at Howard, consider donating to Bison Express.