All season, Howard University Coach A. B. Williamson has been waiting for his youthful team to demonstrate patience and poise down the stretch. Last night, the Bison had enough of both to squeak out a 60-56 triumph over Colgate before 1,900 at Burr Gymnasium.
The fast-breaking Bison (10-5), unable to get their speed game out of neutral because of the Red Raiders' deliberate attack, won with accurate free-throw shooting and some excellent defense in the final minutes.
With the score tied at 52 and 2:20 to play, Howard called on its best outside shooter, Bernard Perry (18 points) for help. The 6-foot-5 freshman, who has been given a license to shoot more, threw caution to the wind and bombed in a 22-foot jumper to push the Bison ahead, 54-52, with 1:47 on the clock.
"We've been trying to get Bernard to shoot more," Williamson affirmed. "He did this game."
After a missed shot and a rebounding foul against Colgate, Bison forward Larry Spriggs sank a pair of free throws for a 56-52 lead with :54 left.
Mike Ferrara, the 17th-leading scorer in the nation (25.9) and the man Williamson feared most, forced up a 22-foot shot and made it to cut the deficit to a basket.
The leading Bison scorer, James Ratiff, went only six for 18 from the field, but here he got behind the pressing Colgate defense for a successful layup. Tom Lee's jumper pulled the Raiders back within two points with 20 seconds remaining.
Rodney Wright's two free throws gave Howard another four-point lead, 60-56, six seconds later. Then came a crucial play.
Colgate's Butch Hill, former star at St. Albans here, outran Ratiff for a long pass and slipped the ball back to teammate Doug Harley. That senior went up for an attempted layup and appeared to be fouled by both Ratiff and James Terry. But no whistle came and Ratiff grabbed the missed shot.
"All ball," smiled Ratiff.
Colgate Coach Mike Griffin, incensed over the play, charged official Larry Hill after the game to complain.
"They took away our last chance to win," said Griffin, calm minutes later. "We ran the play just like we wanted and should have had a basket. Maybe, then maybe we could have fouled and possibly got the ball back.But overall, I have no complaints about the officiating."
Griffin certainly had no complaints about his team's sterling effort. The smaller Raiders hung tough on the boards (Howard had only two more rebounds) and packed their zone tight to prevent the Bison dunk patrol of Ratiff, Terry and Spriggs from doing their specialty.
Each time Howard crept ahead, Ferrara (25 points) would get free for a 20-footer or Harley or Hill would get inside for a layup.
After Colgate trailed by five points early, Ferrara shot the Raiders into a 28-24 lead at intermission. Howard committed two straight turnovers and Ferrara scored baskets following each mistake to account for his team's largest lead.
"We did what we had to do," said Griffin. "We made them play at our pace. We knew we couldn't let them get ahead of us."
With Ratiff struggling, Perry and Nate Speight, leaving the bench to hit three clutch jumpers, took over the offense in the second half.
Speight's second shot sent the Bison in front, 41-37, with 9:09 to play. Although the game was tied on five occasions in the final minutes, Colgate would never lead again.
Perry sank four free throws and Ratiff had a three-point play to give Howard a 52-48 advantage with 2:58 left.
Colgate (5-6) caught up via a jumper by Ferrara and a pair of freebies by Harley but Perry came right back with his long shot.