Howard caught a struggling South Carolina State and, thanks to freshman Tyrone Powell's career highs of 20 points and 12 rebounds, held on to capture a sloppy, 61-58 Mid-Eastern Athletic conference decision before 1,000 last night at Burr Gymnasium.
If ever the Bison were ripe for a loss, this game was the time.
Howard played as if it was still emotionally drained from the disheartening loss Saturday to archrival North Carolina A&T. Senior George Hamilton, the top scorer and spiritual leader, was on crutches with a sprained ankle. And Howard shot a weak 35 percent, going without a field goal the final 5 1/2 minutes.
"I was glad we could pull this one out, especially with our top scorer out," Coach A.B. Williamson said. "Powell did the job when he had to. He has a lot of ability and stayed within the offense. We couldn't let those southern teams go 2-0 against us."
Williamson didn't want to lose to his former assistant coach, either. Cy Alexander worked with Howard 11 years before taking over at S.C. State this year.
Powell's effort, particular in the second half, offset some horrid errors down the stretch as the Bison (6-5, 1-1) were unable to put away the Bulldogs (5-7, 1-2).
But the visitors' mistakes and poor shooting finally took their toll in the final eight minutes. The Bison were ahead, 47-45, then Powell and point guard Chuck Smalley (11 points, four assists) came up with some crucial points to supply breathing room.
Smalley sank a short jumper, Skip Bynum had two free throws, Powell scored inside, Rocky Gholson (11 points) two free throws and Smalley capped the 10-2 run with a driving layup for a 57-47 lead with 5:43 left.
"I was much quicker than their big men and used that quickness to get inside in the second half," Powell said. "Coach stressed that we needed this game."
Williamson's message didn't sink in right away. The Bison missed several easy shots inside and allowed the hustling Bulldogs some offensive rebounds and a bundle of layups to pull close. South Carolina State's last five baskets came off second- and third-shot opportunities, the last one by Frank Ingram to pull his team within 61-57, with 13 seconds left.
After Smalley missed a free throw, S.C. State missed three shots. Rodney Mack's free throws at :02 provided the final score.
Bernard Bowman (13 points), Mack (12) and Darrell Gilmore (11) helped S.C. State take a 25-15 lead early. The Bison battled back to trail by six at intermission before finally pulling even at 32-32 on a layup by Gholson with 18:09 left.