The last time Howard traveled this way, North Carolina dealt the Bison a 42-point defeat. That was in 1975, and judging from tonight's showing, Howard's basketball program has made a few strides in the right direction.
For a little more than 28 minutes, Howard ignored the hanging championship banners, the Tar Heels' reputation and a raucous capacity crowd of 10,000 to give UNC fits before running out of gas and losing, 77-63, at Carmichael Auditorium.
In the closing minutes, the Bison's Derek Caracciolo jumped on the back of Warren Martin trying to block his shot and fell hard to the floor. The 6-8 junior center suffered a fracture of the humerus bone in his left arm. He is expected to be out several weeks.
UNC (3-0), with three 6-foot-11 players and an experienced back court returning, was expected to rout the Bison in its home opener.
It didn't happen. Howard didn't let it happen.
Showing no resemblance to the team that committed 19 turnovers, missed 45 shots and lost by one point to Coppin State last week, Howard (0-2) rebounded well, played sound defense and made open shots early. The impressive effort resulted in Howard leading by seven points several times.
The Bison held a 37-35 lead at the half, and, with 12 minutes remaining in the game, trailed, 48-47.
"At that point, the game got a little too physical for us and we got tired," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson. "I thought we hung in there, but we had a couple of breakdowns against their run and jump (defense) and missed some shots when they were making their run."
Ignited by point guard Kenny Smith, the Tar Heels scored 12 straight points in a six-minute span to take a 66-51 advantage with just over five minutes to play. Opposite three inside baskets by Brad Daugherty (13 points, 13 rebounds), two outside jumpers by Smith (10 points, nine assists) and a dunk by Martin (nine points, eight rebounds), Howard was scoreless on 12 possessions.
"Our defense played much better in the second half," North Carolina Coach Dean Smith said. "A.B. really had his team prepared to play us. They were quick and made us look bad. Our goal was to limit them to five offensive rebounds in the first half. They had that many before I could call a time out. I couldn't believe what was happening.
"Our zone was more active in the second half and Kenny gave everyone easy shots."
UNC didn't allow Howard any second or third shots and had no trouble getting the ball inside to 6-11 Daugherty, 6-11 Martin or 6-10 Joe Wolf (13 points) for easy layups or short jumpers.
Howard had no choice but to rely on its perimeter shooting, and only George Hamilton (19 points) and Fred Hill (10) was successful out there.
"We had a bad night against Coppin State, but tonight we just let it loose," said Hill, who had four assists before fouling out. "They were very tall and it's tough getting the ball over them in their press. They're a little like us -- young -- and you're going to make mistakes."
Howard didn't make too many mistakes in the first 20 minutes. Hill made all five of his field goals, Hamilton had eight points and Robert Jones and Caracciolo helped the Bison control the backboards and get a few offensive rebounds.
Howard tied the game at 2, then maintained a slim advantage most of the way until Buzz Peterson's three-point play put UNC ahead to stay, 42-39, with just over 17 minutes to play. The Bison hung tough until that six-minute period.