When forwards James Ratiff and Larry Spriggs are on top of their game, Howard is awfully tough to beat. When Ratiff and Spriggs get the kind of support they got last night from the rest of the Bison, Howard is nearly impossible to beat.
Hot perimeter shooting by Fairleigh Dickinson's Ken Webb (24 points) and Michael Payne (20) presented problems for a while. But the Bison, with four players scoring in double figures, pulled away from the scrappy visiting team to win, 80-74, and run their Burr Gymnasium season record to 9-0.
Ratiff and Spriggs scored 19 points each guard Bernard Perry hit 16 on eight long-range field goals. The big bonus for the Bison was the play of Lawrence Norfleet in relief. The 6-foor-8 center/forward sank six of 10 shots and a pair of free throws for 14 points; most came late in the game when Howard continually had to fight off the knights.
The Bison jumped to a 13-2 lead behind nine point by Ratiff and Perry, but led by only 41-35 at halftime after holding lead of 10 and 11 points much of the way.
Howard led, 51-42, with 16 minutes to play in this break from Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference competition, but the knights (8-11), road-weary losers of four straight, used three-point plays by Greg Foster and Payne and a long jumper by Brian Horton to make it 51-50 with 14:40 remaining.
After Norfleet missed a close-in hook shot, Webb laid in a basket, after missing two short ones in the same sequence, to put FDU in front, 52-51. But Spriggs gave Howard the lead for good, 53-52, with a bank shot. Howard built its margin to 80-70, then held on in the final moments.
Howard (12-8) did not shoot especially well, 47 percent, but held its composure the entire 40 minute and killed Fairleigh Dickinson under the glass. The Bison outrebounded the Knight, 50-31, most of the captures coming late in the second half when the knights finally cooled off with their previously torrid shooting.
Howard Coach A.B. Williamson implemented a zone defense to keep the Knight guards from penetrating the lane and passing off to their forwards for easy inside baskets.
"New York and New Jersey players love to drive the lane," Williamson said. "We wanted them to shoot from the outside."
Williamson was very pleased with his team's effort. He praised the play of Ratiff, (13 rebounds, four assists and intimidating defense), Perry (eight-for-14 shooting, six assists) and Rodney Wright (nine assists and only one turnover while running the entire show).
Spriggs as usual did his quietly efficient job, making eight of 12 shots and grabbing nine rebounds. With Norfleet rebounding and scoring better, the Bison front court is a candidate for most potent in black-college basketball.
After this third straight victory, Howard began pointing toward Saturday night's conference road contest with MEAC trailer Delaware State.
"The big word on our bulletin boare is 'momentum'," Williamson said. "Delaware State is tough in that little matchbox gym and they get more fired up to beat us than anybody else in the league. If we just play with consistent intensity, we can go into the (MEAC) tournament with the necessary momentum."