James Ratiff, Howard's all-MEAC forward, returned to the starting lineup after missing three games and led the Bison over Florida A&M, 79-63, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game last night before 2,400 at Burr Gymnasium.

Ratiff said his left knee still is "only 80 percent" after straining ligaments, but he had 24 points (10 of 18 from the floor) and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes. Center James Terry totaled 17 points and 11 rebounds as Howard improved to 7-3 in the conference and 10-9 overall. Florida A&M, which defeated the Bison, 74-66, last month, is 4-4 and 8-12.

Both Ratiff and Howard Coach A.B. Williamson said the struggling Bison, winners of three of their last four after a shaky start, became a better team during the senior forward's absence.

"The guys were looking for me to do too much, instead of scoring themselves," said Ratiff, averaging 20 points and eight rebounds. "We've got a lot of guys who can shoot. All they need is the confidence."

"I think the players picked up the slack very well when James went out," said Williamson. "I was glad to see it because we really haven't played that well this year, and the (MEAC) tournament is next month. We're aiming to get as good position in the tournament as possible by winning as many as we can. We need that momentum."

Chauncey Terry, a 6-foot-8 freshman from H.D. Woodson High School, was the most impressive Howard reserve with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots in 12 minutes.

He did, making three baskets in 75 seconds as Howard took a 15-14 lead on his base line jump shot with 13:40 remaining in the first half. Florida A&M caught up twice that half, but both Terrys and Ratiff did a good job of shutting off the Rattlers' inside game.Mont-Germantown 75, Mont-Rockville 70