In anticipation of Saturday's big game against archrival North Carolina A&T, Howard worked out a few kinks against outmanned Virginia State last night.
The Bison unleashed a seldom-seen fast break that left defenseless VSU breathless, 98-72, before 1,500 at Burr Gymnasium.
Howard (6-5) scored the majority of its points off layups and dunks, much to the chagrin of Trojans Coach Floyd Laisure, who left his starting guards, Darren Sanderlin and Lamont Walker, back in Petersburg for disciplinary reasons.
"Sure, we missed them, but you can't sacrifice principles for a game," Laisure said. "They're a big chunk out of our lineup. We had to play a lot of people out of position and it hurt us. We had no floor balance. I was very worried about Howard doing exactly what they did. I want to think if my guards were here, they wouldn't have gotten so many easy ones."
The way the Bison executed last night, it's highly doubtful the two freshmen Trojans would have made much of a difference. Prior to this game, Howard had averaged just under 65 points per game and had scored more than 80 only once, in a 93-84 loss in Providence.
"We're getting comfortable with both styles -- running or the half-court game," said a pleased Bison Coach A.B. Williamson. "Our new guys are blending in and everyone hustled. We got a chance to execute our special plays and the tempo of the game allowed us to play fast. We'll know where we stand Saturday night."
The A&T scouts saw the Bison shoot 59 percent from the floor (including 11 dunks), outrebound VSU, 39-31, and force 16 turnovers. Earl Smith led the Bison scoring parade with 16 points. Fred Hill had 14 points, Robert McIllwaine had 12, Rocky Gholson and Jeff Williams 11 each and Derek Caracciolo 10.
Howard, which has lost to A&T in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament title game (and the NCAA bid that goes with it) four consecutive years, was locked in a run-and-shoot battle with the Trojans in the early part of the game. The 45-second shooting clock was inoperable, but neither team seemed to mind.
The Trojans kept pace with the Bison until it was 34-34 with just under three minutes to play in the first half. Then, Howard took control.
Hill scored on a breakaway to give Howard a 36-34 lead it would not relinguish. Hill followed with a 16-foot jumper and Robert Jones added a layup for a six-point lead.
Dwayne Ellis (16) hit a jumper to temporarily halt the Bison run. But Hill made back to back three-point plays, the last coming on a slick drive between three defenders with two seconds left to give his team a 48-36 lead.
VSU didn't solve its defensive problems in the second half as the Bison continued to get easy baskets. Howard, getting three straight baskets by McIllwaine, outscored the Trojans, 8-4, to take its biggest lead of the game, 56-40, with 16:40 to play. Virginia Union 82, UDC 71:
Greg Williams scored 24 points and Jamie Waller had 21 to lead the Panthers in Richmond. Lyndon DeBellotte led the Firebirds with 20 points and Timothy Stanfil had 12. Virginia Union improved to 7-4 and UDC fell to 6-5.