You can count the number of times a play drawn up on the clipboard works in a crucial situation. Last night was one of those few times.
Fred Hill's 10-foot base line jump shot with six seconds left lifted Howard to a 48-46 come-from-behind triumph over East Carolina before 1,000 at Burr Gymnasium.
Howard, which has won five of six games to raise its record to 7-8, wiped out a 10-point second-half deficit and tied the game for the final time at 46 on Robert McIlwaine's two free throws with 2:39 remaining.
East Carolina (5-8), which hit only three field goals in the final 15 minutes, came down looking for the go-ahead basket when the Bison's trapping defense forced the Pirates' 21st turnover.
Now it was Howard's turn. The Bison spread the floor and worked nearly a minute off the clock before calling a timeout. With 15 seconds to play, Howard called another timeout to set up for the final shot.
The ball went in to Hill in the back court. He dribbled to his right and passed to McIlwaine, who had flashed across the foul line. McIlwaine passed back to Hill, who drove into the right corner, pulled up and sank a short shot over an East Carolina defender for the winning points.
"I had a smaller man on me and I thought I could get the shot off," said Hill, who scored 17 points. "After I got the pass back, I had some room and kept going until I got to the spot. I got a good shot."
"Exactly like we drew it up on the board," Howard Coach A.B. Williamson said. "Hill took the handoff and went right for the shot. We had hoped he would get the shot with two seconds left but . . . five seconds can be a long time. We didn't want to foul at the end but they got a good shot."
The Pirates rushed up court and William Grady's 20-footer hit off the back rim as the horn sounded.
A few other Bison diagrams on the clipboard worked last night. Howard did a poor job keeping the Pirates off the offensive boards early. East Carolina had five follow-up baskets and led at the half, 25-19.
With baskets by Curt Vanderhorst and Roy Smith (12 points, eight rebounds), the Pirates increased the lead to 38-28 with 13 minutes to play. East Carolina then went flat.
Over the next 10 minutes, the Pirates struggled against Howard's shifting, trapping zone defenses and made only three field goals, missed front ends of three one-and-one foul situations and lost the ball seven times on turnovers.
"We used a couple of different zone defenses," Williamson said. "It completely took them out of their offense."
Hill (17) had six points and Robert Jones had five as Howard moved to a 43-40 lead at the 4:37 mark. East Carolina regained the lead, 46-44, on a three-point play by Smith at 3:45.
McIlwaine then made his big free throws to tie the game. And Williamson drew up plans for a victory.