It used to be in good times and bad, the Howard University basketball team always enjoyed seeing Bethune-Cookman.

But times have changed, and last night was a prime illustration as the Bison blew a seven-point lead with 5:15 left in regulation and went on to lose their 10th straight, 79-77, in double overtime before a crowd of 1,875 at Burr Gymnasium.

Senior guard Clifford Reed scored 28 points for the Wildcats, who improved to 4-12 overall, 3-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. His jumper under pressure from the free throw line gave Bethune-Cookman a 78-76 lead with 22 seconds left in the second overtime. He also made one free throw with four seconds left.

Howard, playing its second straight game without second-leading scorer and top rebounder Tyrone Powell (broken jaw), lost its seventh straight at Burr dating back to a February 1989 victory over Bethune-Cookman. The Bison fell to 1-14, 0-4 in the MEAC and they have now failed to win in four home games under first-year coach Butch Beard.

The Bison, who came into the game with an 18-3 record against the Wildcats, including 9-1 at Burr, had a chance to tie with four seconds remaining in the final overtime. They had run down the clock after Reed's basket, and Ricky Dodson was fouled with eight seconds left. He made the first free throw, but missed the second. Reed grabbed the rebound and was fouled.

Howard, which received season highs from Ronney Gibbs (17 points), Robert Riddick (13) and Phalon Bass (11), failed to get off a shot in the final seconds.

Bethune "deserved to win," said Beard. "We missed free throws, layups and had too many turnovers {21 to Bethune-Cookman's 14}. We could have blown them out in the first half and just didn't do it."

Howard led, 59-52, after Riddick's three-point basket with 5:15 remaining in regulation. But the Bison failed to get another field goal in regulation. Bethune-Cookman's Ambrose Austin made a three-point basket from the right side with 1:32 left to tie the game at 62, but neither team could capitalize on several chances to go ahead. Bethune-Cookman's Christopher Carter missed a three-point attempt with three seconds left, necessitating overtime.

The Wildcats scored the first four points of the first overtime, but Gibbs converted an offensive rebound with 1:17 left and made a free throw with 40 seconds to go to tie at 69. Reed missed a potential winning jumper for Bethune-Cookman with two seconds left.

Howard went up, 76-71, in the second overtime, but Ruye Glass's basket with 1:45 left tied it at 76. Austin's steal with 59 seconds left set up Reed's go-ahead jumper.

"I had missed one that could have won in the first overtime and I realized I had been going to my left a lot," said Reed, who came in averaging 21.6 points. "This time, I decided to go to my right and I hit it."

Beard's team has lost nine games by seven points or less and he has often been disappointed by its slow starts. But last night the Bison scored the game's first nine points and twice held first-half leads of 12 points. But by intermission, the lead was down to 38-31 and in less than two minutes of the second half, the Wildcats scored eight straight to take their first lead, 39-38.

"We didn't play well at all in the first half and had no intensity," said Reed. "But we went to a matchup zone and that seemed to get us going and confuse them. As it turned out, this was a big, big win for us."