The notion was that all the Howard University basketball team had to do was show up at Burr Gymnasium. Before last night, the Bison were 9-0 at home.

They aren't 10-0 now.

Towson State made that home court extremely uncomfortable for the Bison, beating them, 84-61, before 1,700 fans who grew increasingly surly as the night wore on.

A forceful dunk by Towson's Donald Leslie in the final seconds ended the rout.

Trailing by one at halftime, 34-33, the Bison disintegrated in the first six minutes of the second half.

The scoreboard stayed frozen at 35 for Howard (12-0) while the Tigers (10-12) were scoring 12 points. Six missed shots and three turnovers by Howard helped Towson to a 48-35 lead with 14:15 remaining, and the Bison never recovered.

Billed as "the dunk patrol," the Bison had that label -- and a few basketballs -- flung back in their faces. James Terry, the 6-foot-11 center, missed two slams. At the other end, the Tigers were ramming repeatedly.

Leslie, Tony Odrick and freshman Leo McGainey, a graduate of Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, each had 16 points for the Tigers. Carlton Johnson and Charles Lawler had 10 each.

Larry Spriggs scored 23 for Howard, which shot 51 percent but committed 25 turnovers and made just seven of 16 free throws.

James Ratiff scored 12 points in the first half but managed only a free throw in the second as the Bison suffered through 20 of their most disoriented minutes of the season.

Afterward, Howard Coach A. B. Williamson kept his players in a closed-door meeting that lasted an hour. He was unavailable for comment. "I have nothing to say and neither will A.B.," Howard assistant Cy Alexander said.

Vince Angotti, the Towson coach, avenged last year's painful loss to Howard, a game in which his team squandered a 13-point halftime lead.

That game still was on Angotti's mind. He said the Howard players probably hadn't forgotten either. "They came back and beat our butts last year," he said. "I think they thought they could do it again."

The second half key was McGainey, the Tiger floor leader. With three baskets and an assist, the 5-11 point guard had a hand in eight of the Tigers' first 12 points that points. McGainey finished with 10 assists.

"He's a very mature player," Angotti said. "He set the pace. He set things up, looked for the open man. He called the defenses. He decided to stay in the 2-3 (zone) and it was the right one."