Howard withstood a dazzling 32-point shooting display by Southern guard Tony Murphy and spurted away in the final two minutes to corral the speedy Jaguars, 79-69, in a nonconference game last night at Burr Gymnasium.
The Bison (5-1) led almost the entire contest but could never shake the pesky visitors. The 6-foot-3 senior made 13 of 32 shots from the field and each shot was from the twilight zone.
"Oh, we knew he could shoot it," said Bison guard Rodney Wright. "We didn't get our hands up on defense and he hit it from out there. Even if we had our hands up, he would've hit it anyway. He was hot."
Murphy's 22-footer from the right side and a pair of free throws pulled his team to within a basket, 71-69, with 2:18 to play.
Howard then cracked down on defense and shut out the Jaguars the rest of the way. Howard's James Ratiff, James Terry and Larry Spriggs formed a triangular wall and snatched down every errant attempt.
"We got only one shot and lost our concentration," said Murphy, who came into the game averaging 29.5 per game, "and the turnovers hurt us."
After Murphy's two free throws, Ratiff (29 points) hit a running bank shot to push the Bison out to a four-point advantage, 73-69, with 1:40 to play. Murphy missed from deep and Ratiff grabbed the rebound. His pass went to Wright, who fed Spriggs for a dunk.
Following another Southern miss, Wright, who finished with 12 points and five assists, controlled the Bison keepaway game until he found a crack and slipped down the lane for a layup to put the Jaguars away for good, 77-69, with 40 seconds remaining.
"We got pumped up in those last minutes," said elated Bison Coach A. B. Williamson. "We hit the boards and started running. That's our game. I think they just ran out of gas."
In the early going, it appeared Howard might be the team to need oxygen. The running Jaguars wasted no time getting the ball up the court and to Murphy, who needed only to peep at the basket before letting fly. He hit nine from no man's land in the first half, but his team still trailed, 40-39, at intermission.
Howard got 16 points from Ratiff, seven from Perry and six from Wright to stay in front in the first half.
The Bison went into its customary second-half lull and almost let the game get away. Murphy took a break and watched his teammates score.
A follow-up dunk by Anthony Bryant gave the Jaguars their first lead, 43-42. The lead then exchanged hands twice and was tied three times before Howard crept ahead.
"We were guilty of not making the transition from offense to defense," said Southern Coach Carl Stewart. "We let them get away with too many long passes. Our execution was poor, both offensively and defensively."
Wright led the Bison fast break as Howard maintained a three to five point lead until Murphy warmed up and hit four straight shots for Southern's final hurrah.
"We had that brief mental lapse but we came out of it," said Wright. "We seem to get ignited by the spectacular play, like the dunk."
Spriggs (13 points) seemed to take what fight was left out of the Jaguars (4-1). Southern, averaging 90 points per game before last night, converted only 30 of 71 shots from the field. The Jaguars committed 24 turnovers and were outrebounded, 31-30.
Bernard Perry played a fine game for the Bison. The guard scored 10 points, had eight assists, five steals and three rebounds. Terry had 11 points to give Howard five starters in double figures. Howard plays winless Florida A & M (0-4) tonight at Burr Gymnasium at 8.