Robert McIlwaine had 17 points and eight rebounds tonight as Howard University defeated Morgan State, 83-72, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game before 900 at Talmadge L. Hill Field House. It was Howard's seventh straight victory.
The Bison are 9-5, 3-0 in the MEAC. Morgan State dropped to 1-14, 1-2.
"The thing about a 1-13 team is that they pose more of a threat than a 7-8 team," said McIlwaine, Howard's center. "They come out after you."
For Howard, reserve Mike Hampton had 15 points, Robert Jones 12 and Earl Smith 10.
It wasn't until Smith made two dunks in less than a minute to give Howard a 69-62 lead with 3:08 left that the Bison could rest easily.
All night, Morgan State, trailing by margins of six to eight points, was resilient. What kept the Bears close was the shooting of 6-foot-1 guard Thomas Foster.
Foster continually shot arcing jumpers in the lane, challenging Howard's big men. He scored 32 points (going 15 for 30 from the field), 22 in the second half. He also had nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
"We just tried to contain him," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson. "We tried to make him shoot from as far out as possible."
Howard led at the half, 31-30, but according to Williamson, the narrow margin was disappointing because the Bison dominated the early going.
Howard took an 8-0 lead after 1:34 as the 6-foot-8 McIlwaine and the 6-5 Smith each scored on offensive rebounds and each added another basket.
But the Bison then went scoreless for more than five minutes, and Morgan State took a 9-8 lead.
Morgan State didn't score for the next 3:09 and Howard led again, 16-9, when Robert Jones converted an alley-oop pass to Michael Jones.
Howard went up by 30-24 when Robert Jones made the first shot of a one-and-one, but the Bears made another run before halftime.
The second half remained close for the first 11 minutes, but Howard took a five-point lead on Michael Jones' unusual four-point play. Jones' jumper gave the Bison a 51-50 advantage with 9:07 left. On Morgan State's next possession, Howard stole the ball. Jones took a lead pass, made a reverse layup and was undercut from behind. An intentional foul was called, and Jones made both free throws to make it 55-50 with 8:48 left.
"This year's rule says that if you're fouled from underneath, you get two shots," Williamson explained.
Several minutes later, Michael Jones missed another fast break layup but Smith followed the miss with a dunk for a 67-58 lead.
Foster answered with two free throws and a jumper, but Smith dunked again with 3:08 remaining and the Bison led, 69-62.