For the first 15 minutes tonight, Howard played evenly with Old Dominion. But then the Monarchs applied a full-court press and the Bison crumbled to the extent that they were uncertain who was supposed to throw the in-bounds passes.
A two-point Monarch lead became 10 at halftime and, when Old Dominion outscored the Bison, 10-2, to start the second half, the Bison had no hope. The final score was 93-65, Old Dominion shooting 62 percent in breaking a four-game losing streak.
Howard kept the game competitive early by hitting six of its first seven shots, en route to a 54 percent shooting performance before halftime.
But the Bison (3-4) shot only 36 percent the second half and never were closer than 15 points after Old Dominion's fast start.
For Howard, James Ratiff scored 19 points, but only five in the second half. After making seven of eight shots in the first half, Ratiff hit two of 10 in the second half. Guard Bernard Perry, who made five of his first seven shots, hit only four of 11 in the second half.
"We should have developed enough poise by now, that when the shots stop falling, we can slow the tempo and run the offense with some continuity," Howard Coach A. B. Williamson said. "But we kept throwing up quick shots and fell way behind."
It happened in a flash.
It was 32-30, Old Dominion, with six minutes left in the first half. Then, it was 60-42.
Three straight times and four of the next five, Howard committed turnovers against the full-court press, each time failing to get the ball anywhere near midcourt. Each time, the Monarchs converted the Bison mistakes into easy baskets. Suddenly, the Old Dominion lead had grown to 40-32, with four minutes remaining in the half.
As Williamson would later explain, on each of the three successive turnovers a different Howard player was attempting to throw the in-bounds pass. But only one player--forward James Norfleet--was supposed to be the trigger man. The Bison were totally confused.
"We felt Rodney Wright was their own only good ball handler," said Monarch forward Ronnie McAdoo, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half. "We trapped him so he would have to pass the ball off to one of the big men. We were hoping the big men would try to lob cross-court passes or put the ball on the floor. Once they did that, we knew we could force the turnovers."
The plan worked even better than Old Dominion suspected.
Old Dominion stormed Howard with offensive variety at the start of the second half. Guards Grant Robinson, Billy Mann and Charlie Smith hit long jumpers and 6-foot-10 center Mark West finished with 26 points inside, on 10-for-14 shooting.
Then McAdoo, Robinson, Mann and Horace Lambert scored the next eight points to increase Old Dominion's lead to 68-52.
"Against these big schools, we just have to have some patience," Wright said. "After halftime, we just came out and started throwing up shots like we had to get all the points back in the first five minutes. We just have to learn some patience. This rushing is killing us."