In what playground enthusiasts like to call a "good ol' fashioned run," Howard regained its poise long enough to stop the one-on-one artists of Jersey City State College and won going away, 98-77, last night at Burr Gymnasium.
Howard (13-6) got caught up in a run-and-gun affair in the first half and still were out of sync early in the second half when the Gothic Knights (18-4), the sixth-ranked team in Division III, closed to within four points, 51-47, on Reggie Watkins' jumper with 16:09 left.
"The last seven minutes of the first half and the first few minutes after halftime, we were still playing their style of ball," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson. "We fell into a helter-skelter style of ball and that isn't our game. It was playground out there for a while and we kept trying to score off long passes or quick shots. We work too hard in practice to start playing like that."
The Bison snapped out it and put the Gothic Knights away. With Robert McIlwaine (21 points, 14 rebounds) controlling the boards, the hosts went on a nine-minute, 27-10 tear.
"Howard was just a little too big for us. I told my guys the one thing we had to do was box out and we didn't do a good job of doing that," Jersey City Coach Charles Brown said. "We played only 10 minutes of basketball. We got within four and made a few mental mistakes that killed us. Howard was just too good for us and beat us."
With only one starter taller than 6 feet 4, the Gothic Knights depend on perimeter shooting and fast breaks to reach their average of 96 points per game. But Brown was quick to point out his team won't beat many teams if they allow almost 100 points.
"We've been allowing 80 but we've averaged 106 the last 11 games," he said. "They took advantage of our mistakes."
After Watkins' basket, Howard scored 10 straight points to take a 61-47 lead. Derek Carracciolo (10 points, 10 rebounds) made two free throws, Mike Jones (11 points) scored on back-to-back layups and Fred Hill (13) and Earl Smith scored baskets in the spurt.
The Bison held the Gothic Knights to a single shot and began converting easily at the other end. Caracciolo, Hill, Jones and Rocky Gholson accounted for most of the points during a 17-10 blitz to push the Bison out to a commanding 78-57 lead with 7:23 to play.
"We were coming off a loss and some inactivity and we wanted a good win," Williamson said. "We were just forced into a style of play that made us look bad. We did a better job in the second half.
"Next week, we play three conference games and we have to win them all."
The Bison, who had a 10-game winning streak broken by a 4-16 Central Florida team Monday night, opened the game with back-to-back dunks by McIlwaine and Smith en route to a 10-1 lead.
Howard did more things wrong than right but still managed to increase its lead to what appeared to be a safe 35-19 advantage.
The hosts still led by 14 points following guard Jeff Williams' spin move and basket in the lane with 5:49 left before taking the rest of the half off.
The Gothic Knights, sparked by the scoring of Steve Wilder (26 points, nine rebounds) scrapped for a few offensive rebounds and threw in a couple of 20-footers and the Bison's lead was down to seven with three minutes to play.
Howard managed only one field goal after Williams' layup but the cold-shooting Gothic Knights could close only to within five, 45-40, by intermission.