Feb. 7, 2016
Junior Thomas Rivera leads the Hawks in assists with 65.
PRINCESS ANNE, Maryland -
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is playing its best basketball of the season right now having beaten Howard and Hampton back-to-back ad part of a four-game winning streak. But the reward, is a home date with Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference No. 2 Norfolk State on Monday (Feb. 8) at 7 p.m.
The Hawks (8-16, 5-4 MEAC) are 6-1 and have won six straight at the William P. Hytche Athletic Center and play four of their final seven games at home.
"We still with seven games left are a work in progress," head coach Bobby Collins said. "That's how long this process has taken us. We had a very tough early season body of work where our record doesn't indicate how good this team really could have been or is. I just try to maintain and keep a positive attitude in their mind every day. I challenge them every day about being better and getting better off the court and on."
Maryland Eastern Shore is getting big games lately from it's "Big Three" of seniors Devin Martin (Baltimore, Maryland) and Dominique Elliott (Savannah, Georgia) along with junior JUCO transfer Bakari Copeland (Decatur, Georgia), while Collins is happy with the progression of his bench since the early-season battles with the likes of Georgetown, Maryland and Michigan State among others.
Martin has lead the team in scoring all season and currently averages 17.0 a game to go with 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals. Elliott, at 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, averages 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds, but 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds during the team's four-game win streak.
Copeland has raised his averages to 10.2 points and 4.3 rebounds after failing to reach double digits in scoring in eight the team's first 11 games.
The Hawks other 11 players have accounted for just 12 of the team's double-digit scoring performances this season, while the Big Three have had 53 (Martin 21, Elliott 18, Copeland 14). But the reserves were instrumental in an overtime win at Coppin State that started this streak and have come on of late.
The timing couldn't be better.
Sophomore Stephen Spurlock (Dallas, Texas) and freshman Ahmad Frost (Cincinnati, Ohio) are both dealing with injuries and their status for Monday is unknown.
"That's the beauty of our team," Collins said. "I play everybody. Everybody is battle-tested. Next man up is the way we play, so we know what we need to do. These guys practice every day. We are going to miss Ahmad obviously because he was starting to come into his own, but next man up."
Norfolk State (11-13, 7-2 MEAC) is coming off a 99-92 double overtime win at Howard. After Hampton's loss to the Hawks on Saturday, the Spartans moved to within a half game of first place in the league behind the Pirates and South Carolina State (both 8-2).
Jeff Short was the hero for the Spartans with 13 points in the two overtimes after picking up just five in regulation. Short, a redshirt senior guard, is averaging 16.3 points, 3.9 rebound and 2.1 assists per game. He shoots 43 percent from the field, 38 percent from behind the arc and 83 percent from the free throw line.
Oliver Charles (13.3 ppg.) and D'Shon Taylor (12.5) also average double digits in scoring for the Spartans. Charles, a 6-foot-3 redshirt senior guard, has started in 14 of Norfolk State's 24 games this season. Taylor, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, is second on the team in rebounding (4.7) and steals (1.0).
Sophomore forward Jordan Butler (6-6, 2456 pounds) leads the team in rebounding at 6.8 per contest and has blocked 45 shots to go with 5.8 points per game.
Following Norfolk State, the Hawks hit the road again for Delaware State on Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. and Howard on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. All are the second half of a men's and women's doubleheader.
All games can be heard locally on Fox Sports Radio 960 AM WTGM or on www.umeshawks.com. Brendan Gulick and David Byrd will have the call from the Hytche Center on the Hawks Sports Radio Network.