Whatever choice words Coach A. B. Williamson passed on to his solemn Howard University basketball troops during a 2 1/2-hour meeting that lasted until 4 a.m. Tuesday, following the Bison's disappointing 61-56 loss to George Mason, must have sunk in.
Howard took advantage of an overwhelming height advantage, shot 55 percent from the field and was never pressed in handing the pesky University of Buffalo, 65-52, before 1,000 last night at Burr Gymnasium.
Williamson, disgusted with the play of several of his players, started little-used Jeff Beard at the point and freshman Kenny Holmes at forward. Beard, a junior who did most of his playing during pregame and halftime warmups his first two years, worked 27 minutes nearly four times as many as he had totaled in his career. Beard sank three of four field shots, passed out five assists and settled down the Bison offense.
"He played real well with his head. Patience was the key and with Beard out there, we had it," said Williamson, minutes after his team had raised its season mark to 3-1. "We got the shots we wanted. Some we made; some we didn't. We had control from the beginning."
The Bison dominated the inside with 6-10 Dorian Dent. 6-7 Larry Spriggs and 6-5 Holmes muscling past the smaller Bulls for easy follow-up shots and tip-ins.
Buffalo, with no player over 6-6, fell behind early. 22-10, as Spriggs drilled in nine of his game-high 25 points.
Dent's three-point play gave the Bison their 12-point lead and the hosts seemed on their way to a laugher.
But the patient Bulls hit five long jumpers, two each by Nate Bouic and George Mendenhall, to cut into the Bison lead. Buffalo, attempting to cool off the red-hot Howard shooters, went into a stall with four minutes remaining in the half and trailing. 30-19.
"They were hitting everything, so we had to do something, to cool them off," said Buffalo's first-year coach, Bill Hughes. "They were so much bigger and stronger than we are. We felt if we could hold the ball and get them to come out and play us man-to-man, maybe we could get a few good shots. We were lucky to go in at halftime trailing by only 10."
Actually, after Mendenhall's last two 20-footers, the Bulls trailed by only seven, 32-25, at intermission.
Spriggs, who also pulled down 15 rebounds and handed out eight assists, opened the second half with a layup and two free throws, Louis Wilson followed with two long jump shots from the top of the key and Howard had streaked away again, 40-27, with 15 minutes to play.
Buffalo, outrebounded 44-23, was quick enough to force a few Howard turnovers and came right back. Four points by Rodney McDaniel and baskets by Mark Sacha and Bouie had Buffalo within striking distance again, 42-35, with 11:45 to play.
The high-leaping Spriggs then began working his magic around the basked. After Beard drove down the lane and banked home the fifth field goal of his career, Spriggs leaped over the 6-6 Boule, brother fo Syracuse All-America center Roosevelt Bouie, and slam-dunked the ball home.
Spriggs did a jacknife in the air and brought the crowd to its feet with a reverse lay-in to give Howard a 48-35 advantage with 10:20 to play. Buffalo never got closer than 11 points again.