Howard's young team had the unsettling experience of losing large leads several times last night. But the Bison knew what to do in the final seconds with the game on the line--get the ball to their most experienced player, senior guard Bernard Perry.
Perry handled the ball long enough to draw a foul and he made two free throws with six seconds left to lead Howard to a 64-60 victory over Bethune-Cookman at Burr Gymnasium.
Perry had 16 points and six assists for Howard.
"The game never should have been that close," Howard Coach A.B. Williamson said. "But we have so many new kids who don't know what to do in certain situations. We made a lot of blunders. But still, we're winning and I guess that's what really counts."
Howard (8-4 overall) improved its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference record to 4-1, which is somewhat surprising considering the Bison have only one regular, Perry, back from last year's 17-11 team that nearly qualified for a second straight NCAA tournament berth.
Among the 10 players on last night's Bison roster, six are freshmen and one is a junior college transfer. And that roster lost a third of its players recently when four--three of them starters--were declared academically ineligible and a fifth quit the team because of differences with Williamson.
The loss of Charles Johnson and Dwight Walker particularly hurt Howard because it left the Bison without a true point guard.
Williamson started senior Gino Warner at the point last night. Warner is a scrappy type who plays good defense, but he isn't a playmaker.
Howard led, 31-18, early in the second half, but Bethune-Cookman (2-10, 1-3 in the conference), behind Jarvis Smith and guard Ronnie Weston, outscored Howard, 14-3. The Wildcats pulled within 34-32 with 13 minutes left on a four-point play by Smith, who made a running one-hander and two foul shots after being hacked underneath.
Despite Howard's ball handling difficulties, the Bison led, 57-50, going into the final five minutes after Perry's off-balance jumper.