It was an opportunity to end the regular season on an up note, as well as a chance to give the seniors a win in their final home game.
Instead, it all went sour for Morgan State, as it squandered a 13-point, second-half lead in dropping a 77-67 decision to Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival Howard before a near capacity crowd at Hill Field House.
The loss was big one for Morgan State (6-21, 6-10), one that dropped the Bears to the seventh-seeded position for the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday in Norfolk, Va. The Bears' first-round game will be against second-seeded South Carolina State.
Howard (7-9, 8-19) will be the sixth seed and will play third-seeded Delaware State in the first round of the tourney.
"I take the blame for not getting the team prepared for this," said Morgan coach Michael Holmes. "We looked so erratic and were out of position all game. But we're not worried because we know why we lost."
A key sequence in the game came as the Bears, after losing their lead, came back from a nine-point deficit to make the score 64-60 after Steven Haynes hit a three-pointer with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left.
On Howard's next possession, Haynes was called for a foul and, after arguing the call, was hit with a technical. Howard's Milton Bynum made four free throws with 4:06 left to make it 68-60; Morgan never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
"I don't blame the refs, that happens," Holmes said. "You don't let one call make the difference in an entire game."
Glenn Smith, who was reinstated after missing two games for disciplinary reasons, scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Morgan.
"His timing was off, and that's what happens when you miss time," Holmes said. "He missed a couple of easy baskets."
Milton Bynum had 24 points for Howard, which connected on nine of 12 three-pointers.
Morgan had a 39-31 lead at halftime and increased the lead to 46-33 with a 7-2 run at the start of the second half.
But the Bears went cold from the field and got sloppy with the ball as the Bison were taking off on a 17-2 run to take a 50-48 lead with 10 minutes left.
Morgan was able to tie the game at 50 after Haynes scored on a layup with 8:59 left. But Howard's next four field goals were three-pointers, the last by Robert Riddick that gave the Bison its biggest lead, 64-55, with 5:08 left.
It was a typical Morgan-Howard matchup that included six lead changes.
Morgan seemed to take command early when it went on a 15-1 TTC run -- six of the points by Smith -- to take a 27-18 lead with 6:47 left in the first half.
Morgan, with all five seniors in the starting lineup, increased its lead to 36-23 after Smith hit one of two free throws with 1:32 left. Howard scored seven straight points before Smith scored on a layup with 15 seconds left for a 39-31 Morgan halftime lead.
The loss ended a unique streak for the Bears -- they had won three regular-season finales in a row over Howard.