If Morgan State basketball coach Michael Holmes could harness all the raw power and talent he has up front, the Bears could make a lot of waves this season in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
If he doesn't get his three big men -- 6-foot-11, 300-pound freshman center Jarrad Smith, 6-7, 250-pound junior forward Matt Burrell and 6-8, 225-pound junior forward Michael Brewer -- playing under control, Morgan State might leave only a lot of bruises on MEAC foes this season.
All three players showed brief flashes of promise Saturday night at Hill Field House, where the Bears (1-9) picked up their first victory of the season with a 90-86 decision over South Carolina State (3-7).
It was the opening MEAC game for Morgan State, and at least Holmes can look at a 1-0 league record for a ray of hope.
"We're trying to establish a presence in the league, and those three kids give us good size to compete with," said Holmes. "Jarrad [11 points, seven rebounds] has done a good job out there. But it was tough for him to play with all the fouls they were calling."
Smith, Burrell and Brewer each had four fouls before halftime and eventually fouled out. Smith was the last to foul out, drawing his fifth foul with 1:01 left in the game and Morgan State ahead 86-78.
Smith takes up so much room in the middle that it's hard for opponents to go around or over him. He doesn't have a soft touch but is surprisingly quick for a man who weighs 300 pounds and was 5-for-11 from the field Saturday night.
Holmes said the three officials (Bob Barnett, Jay Johnson and Pete Ponnell) "wouldn't let us do anything."
But Holmes didn't want to go any further in his comments on the officiating crew that called 59 fouls and sent the two teams to the free-throw line for a combined 93 shots.
S.C. State coach Cy Alexander refused to comment on the officials after watching his team hit 26 of 44 (59.1 percent) from the line and Morgan State go 27 of 49 (55.1 percent).
All Alexander would say is: "We didn't come to play. We have to work on the mental aspect of the game."
S.C. State's Jackie Robinson, a 6-9 junior with exceptional quickness, took advantage of the free-throw parade with 17 of 22 from the line and wound up with a game-high 33 points.
Senior Morgan guard Ural Hogans scored 22 points to lead the winners, and he always seemed to score the big basket for the Bears in the second half when S.C. State was trying to wipe out a 46-30 halftime lead.
Freshman guard Phillip Downs had 17 points for Morgan State, giving the Bears 39 points out of the backcourt.
If Smith, Brewer and Burrell can come through up front with some scoring punch, Holmes might realize his dream of turning the Morgan program around.
"We're trying to develop something here," said Holmes. "We're learning how to play under control."