By John Bombatch
WILBERFORCE — It wasn’t as if his Wilberforce University Bulldogs were losing or anything. But coach Terry Futrell knew he could get more from his team in the second half.
And did he ever.
Whatever he told his players, they got the message. Wilberforce went on a 28-10 tear in the first 13 minutes of the second half, to pull away to an eventual 76-63 win over the Fisk University Bulldogs, Tuesday night at Wilberforce.
“For 30 minutes, we played pretty good basketball,” Futrell said. “We just seemed kinda sluggish in the first half, but a lot of that had to do with Fisk. They just out-played us and out-hustled us in the first half. I challenged them at halftime to come out here and take control, especially on the boards, and they did that, especially over that first 10 minutes of the second half, to get control of the game.”
Wilberforce hit 10 of 29 3-point attempts, with Michael Forrest hitting four of those and finishing with 15 points. With Forrest, Malik Breckinridge and Patrick Mitchell (two each) draining rainbow three’s, that opened up the interior for Devontae Berry, who scored a game-high 20 points from inside. Arthur Haggard III and Keenan Smith also converted 3-point tries in Tuesday night’s win.
With the win, the Bulldogs’ second straight, Wilberforce remains in sixth place in the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) standings. The conference boasts 15 teams this season, with the top-8 qualifying for the postseason tournament. According to the AII website, Wilberforce is now 10-7 and sitting in sixth place in the standings. Futrell said the goal is to keep his team in the top-8, and then to make a run in the tournament.
Including the team’s runner-up finish in the Dalton State College Roadrunner Classic Dec. 18-19, Wilberforce, an NAIA school, has now won three of its last four games. They play next at 6 p.m. on Saturday against NCAA Division II school Bluefield State College.
“Hopefully we can get that win over Bluefield here at home, and then we’ve got a big matchup with Rochester, which is a conference game,” Futrell said. “I told them to take care of these games at home, and then we’ll go try and steal a couple wins on the road, and try to get ourselves in the playoffs.”
Wilberforce is now 6-0 in games at home.
Fisk falls to 6-13 this season. They were led by Michael Vardaman’s 16-point effort. Fisk Bulldog teammate Leonard Hall converted the game’s only double-double. He had 13 points and 13 rebounds in Tuesday’s loss.