Howard, which has endured problems from the free throw line this season (66 percent success), made its first 14 from the line and seven more in the final two minutes to defeat George Mason, 77-69, before 1,500 last night at the Bison's Burr Gymnasium.
Howard (12-10) made 25 of 33 shots from the line in a game in which 46 personal fouls were called.
Fred Hill led the winners with 19 points, five of them coming from the line in the final two minutes to keep the Bison ahead. Teammates George Hamilton ended with 16 points and Mike Hampton 14, and Robert Jones had 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
George Mason, which had a five-game winning streak ended in dropping to 13-9, got 26 points from Carlos Yates, but the high-scoring senior had a horrendous shooting night. He missed nine in a row at one point and finished 10 for 25. Rob Rose had 18 points for George Mason.
"We tried to double Yates when he got the ball, and Hamilton, Hill and Hampton did a good job for us out front," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson. "We executed very well on offense and did a good job on defense."
"We had our chances to win, but we missed layups and free throws down the stretch," said George Mason Coach Joe Harrington, whose left arm was in a cast because of a chipped bone in his elbow incurred during a pickup game this week. "Howard played very well and came out and did a good job against us. They got too many easy transition baskets."
Because of Howard's sagging, trapping zone defense, George Mason had a hard time getting off a shot. Howard forced 20 turnovers, 12 in the first half when it wiped out a 7-0 deficit to take an eight-point lead at intermission.
The Bison did little right in the first five minutes, spotting the visitors that quick lead. George Mason's advantage could have been considerably more, and the Patriots' failure to get more points was a sign of things to come.
Over the next six minutes, the Bison came back and took over the game. Hamilton scored six quick points and Hill had three baskets and two free throws as Howard outscored the Patriots, 22-7, to move in front, 22-14, at the 8:55 mark.
George Mason, which set three school records in drubbing young Morgan State, 113-72, Monday night, didn't shoot badly in the first half (nine of 17), but made many mistakes. Howard seemed to have an easy, uncontested shot after each one.
Neither team played particularly well in the half, committing senseless fouls and throwing the ball away. But the quicker Bison, getting a steal and tip-in from Hamilton, breakaway dunks by Chenault Terry and Hampton and a buzzer-beating offensive follow-up shot by Jones, were able to take a 40-32 lead at intermission.
George Mason just couldn't get its game in gear. Yates missed a handful of shots from the lane and the other outside shooters, Wilson and Brian Miller, connected on only six of 16.
In between misses, Howard, coming off two close Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference losses, got most of the shots it wanted. Hamilton made two 15-footers, Hill had five points and Robert McIlwaine and Hampton each made two free throws as the Bison's lead improved to 13 points, 66-53, with 3:25 remaining.
The last three minutes went slowly. Timeouts, followed by countless fouls, stretched the game to more than two hours. But the Bison, uncharacteristically, made their free throws and managed to hold off the Patriots in the final minutes. Mason cut the deficit to four points twice, the final time when Wilson scored from the lane with 52 seconds to play.
Jones had two free throws and a layup in the waning seconds to assure the Bison of their fourth straight win over George Mason here.