Derek Caracciolo scored 16 of his season-high 20 points in the second half and reserve Earl Smith scored 12 of his 16 after intermission to help Howard to an 81-73 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore tonight in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game.

The victory was the fifth in a row and 15th in 16 games for the Bison (17-6, 10-0). UMES is 3-20, 2-8.

After four ties and five lead changes, Caracciolo took control, scoring three straight baskets -- two on tip-ins -- to give the Bison a 56-50 lead with 11:15 left.

With Robert Jones (13 points and 10 rebounds) asserting himself on the boards, Howard soon was off on a 10-0 drive to a 66-52 margin.

The Hawks recovered behind the scoring of Marvin Blye (15 points, 11 in the second half) and Derek Robinson (who scored 12 of his 18 over the last 10 minutes of the game). UMES narrowed the Bison margin to 68-64 with five minutes left, but Smith held off the Hawks with four consecutive free throws and a layup off a steal.

"I thought the team hung together against an inspired Maryland-Eastern Shore team," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson. "I think special credit should go to Rob Jones, who was subbing for [injured starter Robert] McIlwaine and kept us in the game for three quarters.

"Derek had not been scoring much all season, but it just shows the character of this team and why we've been able to win 15 of our last 16."

The Bison enjoyed one of their finest shooting performances, going 31 for 53 from the field, but Williamson did have a bit of a beef.

"If we had shot free throws better in the first half we would have led by seven or eight points instead of being tied," he said. "That's something that we are going to have to improve on before we get to the [MEAC] tournament."