In the eyes of American Coach Jeff Jones, his team did just about everything wrong in the final minutes of its 61-58 victory over Howard yesterday, nearly blowing a 10-point lead in the final 90 seconds at Bender Arena.

However, Bison guard Louis Ford missed an off-balance three-point attempt at the buzzer, giving American (3-3) its third straight win, ensuring a far more pleasant demeanor from Jones over the team's 11-day layoff.

However, "when we watch film on Thursday, we may only watch two minutes of tape," Jones said. "But you can bet that watching that two minutes may take half an hour."

The Bison (1-5) trailed 59-49 with just over a minute left but got within three points on Mario Grove's putback with nine seconds remaining. Eagles guard Steven Miles (14 points) missed two free throws, but American defended well enough to avoid giving Ford a clear look at the basket.

Howard was led by Kyle Williams, who scored 23 points and carried the team for long stretches, and Ford, a freshman point guard who added 13 points. However, the Bison had just seven assists.

American sophomore Matej Cresnik excelled against Howard's slower front line, scoring a career-best 14 points. Cresnik, a seldom-used backup last season, broke open the game late in the second half. He made two three-pointers along with a dunk in transition, and American took an 11-point lead with just under five minutes left.

Neither team shot particularly well, each making 40 percent. However, American managed to make 11 of 27 three-pointers; the Bison went 3 for 16.

Williams, who was held to 10 points by St. Francis (N.Y.) in a loss on Saturday, was unsteady early, missing all four of his three-point attempts in the first half and twice hitting the side of the backboard on leaners early in the second. However, Williams rallied the Bison by making two jump shots, drawing a charge and sinking a three-pointer in rapid succession to pull Howard to 36-34 with 11 minutes 37 seconds left.

American held Ron Williamson, Howard's leading scorer, without a point until two free throws with 6:17 remaining. Williamson finished with four points on 1-for-8 shooting.

* EAST CAROLINA 76, VIRGINIA TECH 60: Belton Rivers scored 18 points and Derrick Wiley added 17 as the host Pirates (6-0) matched their best start since 1954-55. The Hokies, led by Carlos Dixon (20 points), fell to 4-4.

Area Women

Chanel Hunt made two free throws with 44 seconds remaining as American held on for a 62-61 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore at Bender Arena.

Hunt led the Eagles (6-2) with 16 points and Maria Werries added 13. Maryland-Eastern Shore fell to 3-4.