Howard scored 10 straight points in a four-minute span late in the game tonight to reach the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference final with a 61-51 victory over Delaware State.
The Bison will face defending champion North Carolina A&T in Saturday's 9 p.m. championship. A&T ran past Morgan State, 77-62, in the other semifinal.
For the second straight night, the Bison played a superb first half, blew a big lead in the second and came back with clutch plays to secure a victory.
"Our killer instinct started coming out down the stretch," said Howard guard Moe Young. "We were ahead and started gambling more, shooting from farther out than we should have."
Howard led by 15 early in the second half. The Hornets then tightened their zone to deny the inside to the Bison attack. Meanwhile, Delaware started outrunning the Bison on transitions and Howard cooperated with turnovers and low-percentage shots.
The Hornets, behind William Hill and Charles Maybin, ran off point strings of six and eight straight and pulled to 51-49 on Charles Shealey's 25-footer with five minutes remaining.
Howard then downshifted on offense and began to look inside for shots -- the type that had given the Bison their big lead.
"There was a rumor going around that we didn't have the mentality to win here," said substitute guard Gerald Gaskins, who quarterbacked the team well for the second straight night. "I guess we showed them that wasn't true."
After Shealey's basket, Gaskins found sophomore Larry Spriggs with a perfect lob pass and Spriggs banked home the ball for a 53-49 lead. After a missed Hornet shot, Spriggs climbed for the rebound, was fouled and made one of two free throws to make it 54-49.
Senior forward Carlton Richardson and guard Louis Wilson then sandwiched two free throws apiece around another Spriggs defensive rebound and Howard breathed easier with a 58-49 lead and 2:24 remaining.
Spriggs, who scored 25 points in Howard's Thursday night win over North Carolina Central, had 17 tonight. But he was most effective on the boards.
"I wasn't getting enough board work Thursday so I had to make up for it tonight," said the 6-foot-7 juniorcollege transfer. "I was going all out tonight. We want to win the tournament for our seniors, give them a nice going-away present."
Spriggs equaled DSU's first-half team rebounding figures, grabbing 10 of his game-high 14 as Howard built a 32-19 lead by intermission. The Hornets were seeing nothing but Bison palms in their faces as they missed 14 of 21 shots in the opening 20 minutes.
Richardson hit six of nine shots and registered 13 of his game-high 20 points that half. Offensive board work by Richardson and Spriggs kept several missed first shots alive.
"We were much taller... and felt we could exploit them inside," said Gaskins. "That helped when our jump shots weren't falling."
A&T outscored the Bears, 16-2, in the opening minutes of the second half to break a 31-all deadlock. James Sparrow led the winners with 20 points and MEAC Player of the Year Joe Brawner (of Washington's Spingarn High) added 18. A 27-point, 13-rebound effort by Bear forward Garcia Hopkins was not enough to prevent five-time tournament winner A&T from reaching the final.