In the rafters at Hill Field House hang the banners from the 1970s that reflect Morgan State's glorious past in basketball, but the play on the court against Maryland Eastern Shore on Saturday only illustrated how far the Bears have to go to be successful again.
Playing an impressive first half in its first home game of the season, Morgan shot 29.4 percent in the second half on its way to a 77-73 loss to the Hawks -- dropping the Bears to 0-13 (0-3 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play).
"We did some good things, but then we looked like a bad team at times," first-year Morgan coach Michael Holmes said. "They didn't look experienced enough at times, but they gave it their best shot."
The Bears looked good in shooting 57.1 percent in the first half to take a 38-34 lead. But in the second half, fast-break opportunites were not converted, shot selection was poor and composure was lost, as UMES made a run early to take a lead. Morgan fought back to within two in the final minute, but never really appeared ready to take control.
"When a team gets momentum, we lose ours," Holmes said. "That comes from confidence. When you have confidence, you don't get rattled by the least little things. Our guys are still trying to establish that confidence."
The game against UMES (3-9, 1-2) was important because the Hawks are perhaps one of two conference teams (Howard is the other) that Morgan has a shot at beating. Morgan will be at home for the next three games, but will face tough competition -- league-leading Delaware State tonight, with Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman later in the week.
Morgan stayed close without two key players who were out with injuries, guard James McCoy and center Marcus Sheffield.
"One day it'll be on all four cylinders, where everybody is doing the right thing at the right time," Holmes said. "Right now it's real spotty."
Navy coach Pete Herrmann wasn't feeling very well yesterday, less than 24 hours after his team's poorest-shooting effort of the season in a 76-73 loss at William & Mary.
"We got 40 deflections, forced 26 turnovers and had a lot of positives on defense, but that doesn't mean a thing when you're shooting [33.3] percent," Herrmann said. "With just three of 22 from three-point range, it was the worse we've shot all year."
After tonight's home game against Loyola, Navy plays Colonial Athletic Association games at home against Richmond and on the road at George Mason.
"It's a key stretch for us because, besides James Madison, everybody in the conference is trying to find their identity," Herrmann said. "We need two or three wins in a row to develop some consistent play."
Although his team held Central Connecticut, the East Coast Conference's best scoring team, to 72 points -- 24 points below its average -- on Saturday, Towson State coach Terry Truax didn't sound happy with his team.
"I don't think we played particularly well," said Truax, after his team's 82-72 win. "I don't think we improved as much as I've hoped, based on the way we played against Syracuse."
The road win gave the Tigers a 2-0 record in the ECC, putting them in a tie for the lead. With home games against Rider Wednesday and ECC co-leader Hofstra Saturday, Towson could 4-0 by the end of the week. The Tigers didn't lose at home to an ECC team last season.
"Rider is very dangerous, and if Hofstra beats UMBC [Thursday], Saturday's game could be for first place," Truax said. "It's good to get out early in the conference games and get some wins. But I get concerned because we don't come out and play the whole 40 minutes with good intensity and effort at home. We'll have to do better."
Mount St. Mary's was the only other state Division I team in action Saturday night, and it lost at Long Island University, 68-65. The Mountaineers (4-9, 2-1 in the Northeast Conference) travel tonight to St. Francis, N.Y.
Athlete of the week: Coppin State senior Reggie Isaac, who started the week with 27 points in the Eagles' 84-77 loss at New Orleans and came back in the next game with a game-high 30 points in the 87-73 win over North Carolina A&T. Isaac, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, is averaging 24.3 points and is the school's all-time leading scorer in Division I.
Game of the week: Thursday's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game between La Salle and Loyola at Reitz Arena. Although the Greyhounds have struggled of late, they're still ahead of last year, when they finished 4-24. The Greyhounds played tough in Philadelphia on Nov. 28 before losing, 75-68.
La Salle, a top 25 team earlier this season, is 8-3 overall and 2-1 in the MAAC.