Alcorn State tops Jackson State to complete sweep over rival

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 5, 2017

Through almost 30 minutes of play, neither Alcorn State nor Jackson State had led by more than two possessions, but that all changed thanks to Brave freshman Maurice Howard.

With eyes glued to the ball, Howard secured the steal and floated in an easy layup to change the pace of the game, leading to ASU’s 69-58 victory over the Tigers Saturday night.

The win marked Alcorn’s fifth in a row, and also gave it the season sweep over its in-state rival.

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“It’s always good to beat them two times,” Howard said. “It was a great win tonight, and it feels good because of the rivalry.”

Alcorn State struggled from the field in the first half, shooting just 36 percent, but regained its composure after the break to ultimately pull away.

Howard’s steal put Alcorn up by seven points, 39-32, with just over 13 minutes to play, and the spark led to an assertive nature that the Braves hadn’t seen until then.

“We are a better shooting team than we showed in the first half,” Brave coach Montez Robinson said. “We had to come out and refocus ourselves. (Howard) was aggressive and just went in. Anytime that happens it’s a good play for us, especially for a freshman.”

With the shift in character, Alcorn was able to attack the basket and draw fouls in the second half.

The Braves shot 21 for 23 from the free throw line after the break, compared to just 2 for 6 before going into the locker room.

“We knew we couldn’t settle (for jump shots) in the second half or they would blow us out,” Howard said. “We just had to get ourselves going and then start on the outside.”

Howard ended the night with 13 points, including 6 of 6 free throws, and his steal wasn’t the only big give.

The Tigers rallied back to regain the lead, 48-47, with just less than six minutes remaining, and it was Howard who nailed a 3-pointer on the Braves’ next possession to give them the lead for good.

“It was huge,” Robinson said. “I kept running the plays for him and kept calling his number because he normally makes that clutch shot. He had a couple that didn’t go down, and I told him not to worry about it and keep shooting.”

Howard didn’t go without help.

A.J. Mosby was the leading scorer for Alcorn with 16 points. DeAndre Davis added a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Reginal Johnson added 12 points of his own.

The lead man for Jackson State was Edric Dennis who ended with 21 points.

The Braves will be back in action Monday at home vs. Grambling State at 7 p.m.

“I’m just pleased with the overall effort and the energy tonight,” Robinson said.