When College of Southern Maryland has already proven this men’s basketball season that it can hold the 18th-ranked team in the country to 84 points on the road in a three-point shortcoming to open the year in a Chicago-hosted tournament, then last Tuesday’s home loss for the Hawks is especially disappointing.
Howard scored at will against the Hawks, thriving regularly with easy transition buckets in CSM’s preferred up-tempo pace, en route to a 102-95 victory on nearly 60 percent shooting from the field in Maryland Junior College Conference action.
It was the first time a Hawks opponent reached triple digits offensively. Not even the loaded field in Chicago, featuring 18th-ranked Triton College (Ill.) or West Virginia power Potomac State — on the fringes of being ranked nationally in the top 20 — managed that many points against the visiting Hawks.
For Howard, the win on CSM’s La Plata campus also marked its biggest scoring output this season, led by guard Alie Kondeh’s 27 points on an efficient 11 of 18 (61 percent) from the field. He also stuffed the stat sheet with five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“Howard was definitely the better team and played about as good as they can play,” Hawks head coach Alan Hoyt said after his team fell to 3-5 overall, 1-1 in the Maryland JUCO. “We didn’t play our best, especially defensively. We let one kid go off for 27 points. He had a career night. The one thing we talked about after the game was discipline and focus. If we don’t bring the same energy and intensity as the other team for 40 minutes, we can’t be successful. That starts with defense.”
The Hawks look to get back on track at 7 tonight on the hardwood of unbeaten Anne Arundel (4-0, 0-0 MD JUCO) after an eight-day layoff, hoping to shake off a downward spiral of three losses in four games.
Hoyt added, “I really feel like our first game against Triton, know they were ranked, we played them to one possession and I felt like that gave us a big head that we can play with anyone. And we just didn’t bring it [against Howard]. We just didn’t do very well in defensive transition.”
Four players scored in double digits for the Hawks, as they registered their second-biggest total in a game this season — only outdone by 113 points they registered in their second win against Germanna (Va.).
Sophomore guard Devon Brown spearheaded the Hawks offense with a game-high 29 points, including a trio of three-pointers, while teammates Juwan Cole, Sedric Baker and Troy Cummings (McDonough) scored 17, 16 and 14 respectively.
But it was not enough against a Howard outfit that also featured four double-digit scorers. Kayode Ajenifuja only missed one of his 10 field goal attempts for 21 points, and teammates James Peters and Jazmon Harris scored 18 and 12, respectively, in the win.
“Losing to Howard was very disappointing, but so is any game that we lose,” Cummings said. “We didn’t play as hard as we usually play, offense and defense. We didn’t play our style of basketball that we know we are capable of.”
Like the Hawks, Howard (3-3, 1-0) had 10 different players find the scoring column. But the Hawks were forced to play catch-up just about the entire game and could never overcome the hump.
“We started out the game letting them be the aggressor,” Brown said. “We let them dictate the game in every way offensively and defensively. Once they took the lead, we were stagnant on the offensive end and never really made them work hard offensively while we were on defense.”
Down 42-33 late in the first half, the Hawks closed out the initial 20 minutes on a small surge to get within 44-38 at intermission.
“That was our goal by the end of the first half,” Hoyt said about the closing the gap with Howard. “But our momentum definitely stopped at the half. We didn’t really start clicking again until later on in the second half.”
Howard, continuing to take advantage of defensive breakdowns by the Hawks, pushed its lead to as much as 14 points in the second half.
But the Hawks, fueled by their offensive firepower and a fast pace that made no lead safe, rallied to cut their deficit to four points inside the final minute.
However, coming out of a timeout, the Hawks were unable to foul and yielded a layup in the process that enabled Howard to apply the dagger basket with a six-point lead. Howard shot well enough from the line, at a 69 percent clip (22 of 32), to seal the win.
“One thing we never do as a team is stop fighting,” Brown said. “We made a tremendous run towards the end of the game but just fell short because we didn’t put that type of effort in for a full 40 minutes.”
The disappointing outcome has not deterred Brown’s confidence in his team.
“I feel we finally know we have all the potential in the world to be a great team,” he added. “We just have to put forth the effort.”
Hoyt added, “Obviously, we put ourselves in a deeper hole come playoff time. We’re now 1-3 versus teams in [Region XX of Division II]. But I feel like we’ll get there.”
The Hawks coach noted that there are 11 teams in the region and it usually takes at least a .500 record versus regional opponents, or a mark close to it, for a college to be willing to pay for their team’s entry into the postseason tournament, which decides a national berth.