Bernard Perry sank a 25-foot jump shot with no time remaining to give Howard University a 81-79 victory over South Carolina State and clinch at least a tie for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship last night at Burr Gymnasium.
The Bison lead the MEAC with a 9-1 record with two games remaining. North Carolina A&T (6-3) retained its conference title hopes with an 87-73 victory at Maryland Eastern Shore last night.
It was the first time this season Howard (13-5) has managed good back-to-back efforts. Friday night, the Bison defeated defending MEAC champion A&T by 17 points.
Last night, Perry (22 points) and David Wynn, enjoying season highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds, offset a tremendous effort by Franklin Giles, 6-foot-8 junior center who had 30 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Giles, also called for goaltending four times, scored four points and took down an important rebound in the final two minutes in helping his team wipe out an eight-point deficit and go ahead, 79-77, with 44 seconds to play.
Howard's Gino Warner drove in for the tying layup and Giles pinned the shot against the glass. He was called for goaltending and the game was tied at 79 with 30 seconds left.
"I didn't think it was goaltending, but . . . ," said Bulldogs Coach Johnny Jones.
State (9-12, 3-6) had plenty of time to win the game. The quick Bulldogs worked the ball around looking for a good shot. Ralph Miller made a quick move toward the basket and was called for traveling with six seconds to play.
After a Howard timeout, State didn't bother to press in the back court and that move probably lost the game. Warner got the ball up with no problem and passed to Perry about five feet beyond the top of the key. Perry took two steps and shot. It was good as the buzzer sounded.
"I was kind of surprised they didn't press us in the back court," said Perry. "When I saw they didn't, I told Gino to bring it up. I know they didn't want me to shoot it but I got free. Maybe they didn't think I could shoot that far out. I didn't have to push it at all. I practice that shot a lot, although Coach (A.B. Williamson) doesn't want me to. I'm sure he didn't mind me shooting it tonight."
Jones said he didn't want to press Howard too early and take a chance on creating an easy layup. "We just tried to slow them up enough to get some time off the clock. It was the kind of shot you want to give up in a situation like this. He just hit it."
Perry, the team's best outside shooter, was slower starting than teammate Wynn, who made 12 of 18 shots, mostly medium-range jump shots, to help the Bison stay with the Bulldogs. Giles and Tony Ashford (20) helped their team to a 41-35 lead with four minutes to play in the first half.
But Giles went to the bench with his third personal foul and the Bulldogs didn't score again in the half. Wynn scored his team's final six points and the Bison moved ahead, 43-41, at intermission.
Led by the outside shooting of Wynn and Perry and inside play of Derek Carraciolo (eight of eight for 16 points), the Bison led throughout the second half and appeared to have things in hand with a 77-69 advantage with 5:34 to play.
But the Bulldogs forced three turnovers and a missed shot and moved ahead, 79-77. It didn't last.
"They got us in their game, run and shoot. They laid back on defense and let us shoot and then tried to beat us down court," said Williamson. "That Giles played a very good game. He was tough. We couldn't zone them because they shot the ball so well (29 of 55). I knew it would be close because they've been playing very well."