The key word for Howard's Robert Jones is consistency.
Last night, the 6-foot-8 junior foward came up with several key plays in the second half, including a thunderous two-handed dunk in the final two minutes that slowed a Delaware State rally and helped the Bison prevail, 66-58, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest before 2,500 at Burr Gymnasium.
Jones, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, said making the spectacular play isn't necessarily the way to to win games but "it can inspire you to play better."
"I know I haven't been consistent, but I realize I'm a key figure on this team and have to work at doing a good job every game," he said. "Delaware was very tall and I knew I had to get some rebounds for us."
Despite the Hornets' overwhelming height advantage, Howard (6-8 overall, 2-1 in the conference) built an 11-point second-half lead before the visitors sliced the lead to 57-54 with 2:20 left on a a follow-up shot by Anthony Ross. Jones then came up with his biggest play of the night.
The Bison had opened up the floor to work on the clock. Mike Hampton, who also had a good game with 20 points and nine rebounds, spotted an opening and drove toward the goal. At the last second, Hampton passed to Jones, who threw down a dunk for a five-point lead.
Delaware State (2-9, 0-3) got within three again seconds later on an inside basket by Chris Canty. But Howard broke the Hornets' press and Hampton broke away for another dunk for another five-point advantage with a minute left. The second dunk seemed to do it. Delaware State would not come back again.
"We played a little better in the second half but we could never get into our offense," said Delaware State Coach Joe Dean Davidson, not too happy with his team's 28 percent shooting from the floor. "We finally got the ball inside to Bernard (Campbell, 18 points, 11 rebounds) and Dominic (Snowden, 18 points, 12 rebounds) but couldn't get the big shots."
Howard sank five free throws in the final 57 seconds to assure itself of its second straight win and third in the last four games.
Howard's George Hamilton had eight of his 12 points in the first half as the hosts broke away from an 8-8 tie to lead, 25-22, at intermission.
Good shooting by Hamilton, Hampton and good board work by Jones and Terry Chenault enabled the Bison to go ahead by 11 points midway through the second half.
But Campbell and Snowden, who made a combined 14 of 49 shots (Howard only attempted 47 shots as a team), began getting free along the base lines and hit enough baskets to help Delaware State regroup.
"Had we hit our free throws we could have stretched our lead out," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson. "Our defense played well and would have been better had Robert McIlwaine not fouled out. He's the key. But Jones and Hampton both did a good job for us.
"Both are really coming along. If Robert was consistent, he would be one of the top players in the conference."