Bernard Perry saved Howard last night from a second straight embarrassment, his hanging 12-foot jumper in the lane with 17 seconds left giving the Bison a 45-44 triumph over the patient University of Maryland-Eastern Shore in a MEAC contest before 1,500 at Burr Gymnasium.

The Bison (3-1 in the conference, 6-6 overall) lost in the final seconds Monday night to West Chester and came within seconds of losing to struggling UMES (0-4, 2-11).

The shorter Hawks took advantage of Howard's poor shooting in the second half, when it missed 19 of 25 shots, and ran off an 11-0 streak for a 40-29 lead with nine minutes left.

But, slowly, the more experienced Bison began to fight back. Three steals off UMES' unorthodox four-corner offense resulted in baskets by James Ratiff (19 points), Rodney Wright and Perry. Ratiff's two free throws with 3:02 to play pulled the Bison to 44-43.

Meanwhile, UMES had missed two easy shots, twice missed a free throw when it had one-and-ones and lost the ball five times.

UMES still was trying to hold the ball when three Bison surrounded guard Eric Spencer and stripped him of it with 45 seconds left.

"They fouled him and we got no call," said irate UMES Coach Kirkland Hall. "We did everything we wanted against them. It's just not fair to these kids. They know what a foul is."

Perry came up with the ball and Howard worked it around the UMES zone, looking for a good shot. Perry slipped inside the zone, just inside the foul line, and made the shot that won the game.

Gerald Best's offbalance 15-footer for UMES with two seconds left was far off the mark.

"I have to be pleased," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson. "After losing the other night, we wanted to come back and have a good game. They kept us from running and played a good zone against us. The important thing, the kids listened and did what I told them at the end."

UMES' patient, shuffle offense seemed at times to confuse the Bison. Robert Boney scored his eight points of the first half within four minutes as the Hawks gained a 12-12 tie.

Howard, which always seems to have a period when its plays hardly come out of Williamson's playbook, then allowed UMES to move ahead, 20-16.

But with 4:50 left in the half, Marlow Barkley, the Hawks' top scorer with an 18-point average, had only two baskets and, in a moment of overeagerness, jumped over Ratiff's back trying to get a rebound.

A foul was called and Barkley protested the call so much official Luis Grillo gave the senior a technical for his trouble. Hall voiced his opinion and earned two technicals.

Howard didn't take full advantage, getting only five of the nine points it could have from the technicals. But they were enough to slow the Hawks and Howard held a 27-22 lead at the half.