Carlton Richardson sank a 22-foot jumper with nine seconds left to play to lift Howard University over two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titlist North Carolina A&T, 66-65, before a crowd of 4,000 last night at Burr Gymnasium.
The Aggies, who clinched the conference crown Friday night with a 70-68 triumph over Morgan State, were sloppy throughout, but appeared to have enough gusto left to send the lethargic Bison down to another last-second loss.
Howard, now 5-5 in the MEAC and 13-10 overall, lost a heartbreaker to North Carolina Central, 88-86, in triple overtime Friday night.
Aggie guard Joe Brawner, a former All-Met from Spingarn High School, and All-America candidate James Sparrow waged a two-man war against Howard in the second half. The pair accounted for 16 of the Aggies' final 20 points.
Howard, despite shooting a woeful 41.5 percent and committing 25 turnovers, made enough baskets between Aggie misses and mistakes to hold a 62-53 lead with 4:15 left in the game.
But the visitors, 10-1 in MEAC play and 15-7 overall, called on Brawner and Sparrow to pull them out again. It almost worked.
Brawner, who finished with 20 points, hit three straight from the perimeter despite the close shadowing of Bison defender Gerald Gaskins, to cut the deficit to 64-61, with 2:04 left.
Following a Howard turnover, Sparrow took a pass from Brawner and dropped in a layup to cut the margin to a point, 64-63, with 1:51 to play.
Howard tried its keep-away game but Louis Wilson, who made several long jumpers in the second half to help the Bisons gain the lead, was called for traveling with a minute left.
The Aggies immediately went to Brawner, who posted Gaskins on the baseline, spun toward the key and scored to give A&T a 65-64 advantage with 54 seconds on th clock.
The Bison elected to go for the game-winner. A&T, trying not to foul, gave the Bison ball handlers lots of room near midcourt as the clock ticked down. Richardson, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, then jumped free behind a pick and let fly with his shot. The high-arching shot seemed to hang for minutes before settling in the basket to give Howard its first win over A&T in two years.
"The play wasn't set up for me. The ball would go to anyone who could get free off the pick," said Richardson, who finished with 20 points. "I wasn't supposed to shoot until maybe about three or four seconds were left but I was free and I let it go. I didn't think it was too far out, that's about my range."
Neither team showed skill in the shooting department. Howard hit 27 of 65 from the field, the Aggies made 28 of 78.
"We weren't mentally in the game," said Aggic Coach Gene Littles, who hardly seemed disappointed. "We came up here to win the first game (against Morgan State) and we did that. There was no pressure on us at all against Howard. We wanted to win to keep our streak alive in the Conference (the Aggies had won 19 straight MEAC games) but we didn't play well. We shot shots we've never tried before."
The Aggies made only 14 of 52 shots in the first 20 minutes but took a 33-28 lead at intermission on the shooting and overall play of Brawner 13 points) and Sparrow (10).
The Bison who lost to A & T, 70-68 last week, were more patient in the second half. Wilson, who totaled 14 points, made three from long range and Nate Speight came into the game to add four points to spark the Bison to a 50-45 lead with 9:24 left.
A&T played the role of the sleeping giant, allowing the Bison to creep even farther ahead before beginning its dramatic comeback.