WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The road has not been kind to the Hampton Pirates over the last two seasons, but a victory over their archrival might just be the thing to get them comfortable playing away from home.
Hampton rallied from a seven-point second-half deficit to stun Howard 51-49 Saturday, picking up its first road win of the season and just its second triumph away from home in its last 22 games.
The road has been bumpy for Hampton coach Ed Joyner's young squad, but persevering to pull out a win in a difficult place to play makes the return trip that much smoother.
"We've been in 99 percent of our ballgames, but the thing we didn't do was tough it out until the end," Joyner said. "We toughed this one out. We stayed with it. We probably lost every statistical category but we toughed it out and won the ballgame and that's what counts."
Trailing 40-33 with 7:45 remaining, the Pirates closed strong, finishing the game on an 18-9 run and holding the Bison scoreless over the final 2:29 to leave a packed house at Howard's Burr Gymnasium stunned.
"We just had to buckle down and focus," said Hampton freshman guard Ke'Ron Brown. "I told everybody, 'If we just calm down and play our game, we'll come away with this victory.'"
Emmanuel Okoroba scored the biggest basket of the game for the Pirates, powering in a shot and drawing a foul with 35.1 seconds remaining to tie the score at 49-49. Okoroba coolly hit the ensuing free throw to give Hampton (4-10, 2-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic) its first lead since early in the second half.
Howard (4-13, 1-2) threw the ensuing inbounds pass away, missed a shot for the lead on its next possession, and turned the ball over in its final possession to let Hampton escape with its seventh straight victory over the Bison.
In addition, Howard, which was second in the MEAC in free throw shooting entering the game, missed 5 of its 13 attempts from the charity stripe in the second half to give Hampton life.
"We didn't make free throws down the stretch," Bison coach Kevin Nickelberry said. "We just didn't have enough left in the gun. We gave it all we had."
Deron Powers had 14 points to lead the Pirates, while Ramon Mercado added 10.
Hampton held a 23-21 edge at halftime. After a sluggish first half, Howard was held scoreless for more than five minutes -- while missing its first six shots -- to open the second half before finding the offensive rhythm for which it had desperately been searching.
Guard Simuel Frazier scored seven straight points midway through the second half to give the Bison 40-33 advantage -- Howard's biggest lead since scoring the first seven points of the contest.
The Pirates hung around, closing the gap to two points on several occasions before Okoroba hit the key basket to put Hampton ahead for good.
Howard, which lost to Hampton 58-50 on Dec. 1 and has not beaten the Pirates since a 56-54 victory in Dec. 2009, was led by Frazier and Mike Phillips, who each scored 11 points.
"It's a big rivalry, but our coach tells us all the time that it's not a rivalry unless you win a few games," Phillips said. "That was our whole point with this game."
Both teams struggled to find their range in the first half. Hampton was held scoreless for the first 3:10 of the game, and later in the half Howard went nearly six minutes without scoring a point.
The Bison's drought allowed the Pirates to go on a 10-0 spurt to take a 15-11 lead with 7:51 remaining. Mercado scored five points during the run, which was arguably the most fluid stretch of basketball during a choppy, foul-filled first 20 minutes.
Hampton shot 25 percent from the floor, including 2 of 11 from behind the arc, and committed 10 turnovers. Howard wasn't much better, hitting just 26.9 percent from the floor while starters Phillips and Theodore Boyomo battled foul trouble.
NOTES: Hampton's last road triumph was a 74-59 victory over Florida A&M on February 25, 2011. ... Howard guard Anton Dickerson picked up a technical foul in the first half, as the game between the two rivals featured several chippy interludes. ... Phillips was honored before the game for scoring more than 1,000 points during his Howard career. The senior crossed the 1,000-point barrier during a road loss to Central Florida on Dec. 28.