There they go again.

For the fifth time in as many years, Howard and North Carolina A&T will meet in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference final. Both won relatively easy semifinal victories tonight before 4,500 in the Palestra. After the Hornets defeated Bethune-Cookman, 97-75, Howard eased by Delaware State, 73-59.

"There are no secrets any more between us," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson about Don Corbett, his counterpart in Saturday's 8 p.m. final.

"Execution is the name of the game, it always is. We've probably got tapes going back six or seven years. Every year it seems to come down to one loose ball or one bad pass late in the game. Hopefully it will go our way this year."

That Howard (16-11) drew a first-round bye, and thus had to wait two days and eight games before playing, was probable cause for its sloppy and inefficient play in the early going as Delaware State went out to a 6-2 lead.

A short jump hook by freshman center Chenault Terry gave the Bison their first lead, 8-7, with 16:03 to play in the first half. After Delaware State's Joe Jeter made a steal and layin to put the Hornets ahead, 17-11, Williamson called time.

"We were a little confused against their diamond zone early; that's why Coach called time," said Fred Hill (13 points). "Once we figured out how to run our offense, we knew we would be okay."

Howard began attacking Delaware State's zone by driving and passing off to Robert Jones (12 points) and Mike Hampton (a team-high 17 points) down low for easy baskets en route to a 37-26 halftime lead.

Meanwhile, Delaware State -- starting 6-foot-10 Dereck Hendricks, 6-8 Dominic Snowden and 6-7 Bernard Campbell -- was content to shoot 15- to 20-footers rather than work the ball inside.

The Hornets were successful on only 33 percent of their first-half field goal tries and were outrebounded, 18-10. Howard finished the game with a 37-18 rebounding edge.

Howard defeated Delaware State twice during the regular season, the last time by an 86-67 score. Williamson had voiced concern before the game that his team would not be properly motivitated.

The Bison's second-half performance proved his fears were unfounded. With 14 minutes left in the game, the Bison had built a 49-32 lead and coasted the rest of the way.