Howard University overcame a lack-luster first half with a superb second half to defeat visiting George Washington, 2-1, yesterday in college soccer in a game featuring two traditional powers that have struggled most of this year.

Sylvanus Oriakhi, Howard's talented center forward, scored both Bison goals on headers off corner kicks. Senior Omo Esemuede assisted on both goals.

With the victory, Howard improved its record to 4-2-1. This would be a good enough mark for most teams, but it is not the kind of showing that Bison fans have come to expect, since Howard won the NCAA tournament in 1971 and 1974 and especially since Coach Lincoln Phillips and his players were talking in preseason about winning the national championship.

"This is a young team," said Phillips. "We lost our first game to Navy (2-1), and putting together a team has been a slow process." Davis and Elkins handed the Bison their second defeat.

"As a coach, I would much rather play well and lose than play badly and win. But we needed this game, no question about it. When you have a bunch of new players and they're training hard, you want to have results."

George Washington (3-3-1) dominated the first half, although neither team scored. The Colonials moved the ball around intelligently to their wings on offense, and on defense frustrated the hard-charging Bison forwards with constant use of offsides traps -- a play in which all fullbacks move up toward midfield in the hope of catching opposing players offsides.

"We talked about it at halftime," said Bison senior midfielder Ian Gage, whose aggressive play helped bring about the second-half turnaround. "You can beat the offsides trap by holding on to the ball longer, and by playing the ball diagonally. Once we did that, we were able to beat them."

Howard received a jolt when GW's Tim Guidry fielded a long throw-in from Richard Cliff near the Howard goal and beat goalie Gilbert McPherson with less than two minutes gone in the second half. But Oriakhi, a senior from Nigeria, took Esemuede's corner from the left side at the 61st minute and knocked it past Colonial goalie Leonardo Costas to tie the game.

Oriakhi added the game winner in the 76th minute on another fine placement from Esemuede, this one from the right side. "We've got good jumpers," noted Gage, "so we thought we had an advantage on corner kicks. Their fullbacks aren't very big, so Sylvanus was able to jump over them for the goals."