The way Howard plays basketball early in the season is exciting for everyone except the Bison and Coach A.B. Williamson.

In last night's game, Howard took a 22-7 lead, then fell behind much of the second half before rallying in the last seven minutes to win its home opener, 67-65, over Eastern Illinois at Burr Gymnasium.

Six-foot-11 center James Terry led the Bison with 21 points and six blocked shots. Forward James Ratiff scored 16 points.

The Panthers (2-3) actually had 64 points. But the official scorer credited them with an extra free throw in the first half.

"It's early season Howard basketball," Williamson said. "A lot of excitement." He was the last person who wanted his players to provide it the way they did.

When the Bison ran up their big lead midway through the first half, they seemed to have the game in hand. Williamson even took out four starters to give his substitutes some experience.

But the reserves made four straight turnovers, after forcing four straight on defense, and allowed Eastern Illinois to close to 24-21 with 5:05 remaining in the half on Kevin Jones' basket and Ray Gough's free throw. Gough missed his second foul shot, but was credited with the point by the official scorer.

Howard led, 33-30, at the half, according to the scoreboard. A Howard official informed the scorer of the mistake, but the Bison decided to let the score stand. Neither team was told of the error until after the game.

Eastern Illinois took the lead, 36-35 (officially), on Warren Patton's jumper three minutes into the next half, and increased it to 45-41 on Eddie Jones' three-point play.

But there, the Bison regrouped. Terry, who made six of 10 shots, scored on a layup. Then Ed Swails sank a bank shot that pulled Howard even on the scoreboard, 50-50.

Eastern's Ricky Robinson, who got 10 of his 12 points in that half, kept his team close. But Terry's shot blocking and Ratiff's late-game offensive surge allowed Howard to stay ahead.

The most crucial series came with seven minutes remaining, when Terry blocked two shots and Ratiff blocked one, all within 30 seconds.