The last time the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers took the court at Forbes Arena they were winners of their fifth consecutive game, a 91-86 victory over the University of West Georgia Wolves.
Starting on Saturday afternoon against Paine College and through the first two weeks of December, Morehouse, now 7-0 following a 77-69 victory at Miles College on Monday night, will play four of their next five games at home.
The next game could be the most important of them all, however, because not only would it be the eighth victory in a row but it would be a Morehouse College basketball record.
The seven straight wins to start the season are a school record tied with the 1988-89 team that lost their eighth game of the year and finished the season with a one-loss conference record (11-1) and a 25-4 overall record.
“That team was special,” says current Morehouse College head basketball coach Grady Brewer who was an assistant coach on that team. “Harold Ellis [former NBA guard] was a freshman on that team and we lost in the SIAC tournament to Paine College so the NCAA left us out of the NCAA tournament.”
“This team is mirroring that team in a way,” added Brewer.
Hopefully, the 2017-18 Maroon Tigers don’t mirror their predecessors too much. “We came into the season knowing we had the top eight guys from last year and we wanted to start this season with a challenge early on,” said Brewer. “I didn’t expect us to be 7-0 through our first seven games, maybe 6 and 1, but the guys have played well.”
The benefit of having three of their next four conference games at Forbes Arena leaves Morehouse and head coach Grady Brewer in an enviable position, not to mention having a veteran backcourt and one of the more athletic teams in the SIAC.
“Our motto this season has been ‘win the first 20 minutes, win the second 20 minutes and we’ll win the game,’” Brewer said.
The Maroon Tigers have in fact won all of their games this season and there have been a number of reasons why.
On Monday night the Maroon Tigers got 35 points from senior guard Tyrius Walker and a double-double, 12 points and 13 rebounds, from junior forward Omar Alston. Walker is averaging over 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, while fellow senior guard Martravious Little is averaging 11 points per game and Alston is averaging a career-high 14 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
They’re not the only Maroon Tigers having solid seasons however as Brewer regularly plays close to 10 players per game, at Miles on Monday he played 11 including junior and sophomore transfer forwards Kairo Whitfield and Keith Heard.
Sophomore point guard Michael Olmert is averaging 4.1 assists per game in a backup role. The Campbell High (Atlanta) alum has a 2-to-1 turnover ratio through seven games. Junior guard Duby Maduegbunam is leading the team in three-point percentage with .435 percent shooting while averaging 7.1 points per game.
Senior Jordan Wallace, a starter at small forward, is contributing a little over eight points per game and four rebounds in 24 minutes of play per game this season.
Sophomore Tremell Gooden, a 6-4 receiver on the Maroon Tigers football team who had three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown in Morehouse’s 40-0 win over rival Clark Atlanta earlier this month, gives Brewer an athlete off the bench.
In 13.5 minutes per game Gooden is averaging 3.4 points and 2.2 rebounds. Despite only playing three minutes off the bench against Miles, junior transfer guard James Walker, a Stone Mountain native, is averaging almost six points per game and five rebounds.
The veteran guard had a season-high 10 points off the bench in the Maroon Tigers win on the road over then nationally ranked Rollins College on Nov. 11.
This year’s team, just like the 1988-89 team and the 1990 Final Four team, whose banner hangs above the seats at Forbes Arena, is deep and Brewer knows it. “We’re very talented from 1 through 12 but you have to have guys that buy into their roles in order to be successful,” says Brewer.
Following the conference game against Paine College on Saturday, Morehouse will travel to Lane College on the following Saturday before playing three consecutive home games against the University of the Virgin Islands on Thursday, Dec. 14, Kentucky State on the following Saturday, the 16th, and on Monday, Dec. 18 against Central State University before the Christmas break.
If the first seven games of the season are any indication of how the team is going to be playing during this four-game homestand (plus one) then the New Year’s Day matchup with Spring Hill College in Mobile (7 p.m.) should be quite the celebration.
“We must stay healthy and stay hungry,” Brewer said.
The “Black Out” against Paine College at Forbes Arena will begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday.