For two days, Morgan State was tied for the lead in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Bears should hope that brief taste of the top will linger, because after last night it may not happen again.
Fresh off its first victory of the season, Morgan had problems both protecting and shooting the ball, and the result was a 98-67 loss to North Carolina A&T before a less than enthusiastic crowd of 900 at Hill Field House.
Morgan (1-10, 1-1) shot 40.6 percent from the field and committed 33 turnovers in its first league loss. Freshman point guard Phillip Downs, making his first start in just his third game of the season, committed a game-high 13 turnovers in 29 minutes.
Coach Michael Holmes had to use Downs (four points, three assists) after senior point guard Ural Hogans broke his right wrist in the first half of Saturday's 90-86 victory over South Carolina State. Hogans played the entire second half with the injury and finished with 22 points. But that heroic effort may have been the last appearance for the season for Hogans, who was on the bench with his arm in a cast.
"It's real tough when you lose your leadership," Holmes said. "It also takes away a good share of our points."
Add another delay in the much-anticipated debut of forward Terry Butler because of poor grades, and you'it's a team whose time may be far away.
The Bears committed 18 turnovers (they entered the game averaging 28.7 a game) in falling behind, 51-27, at the half. Morgan's players appeared content to attempt no-look passes instead of taking opening shots, which accounted for most of the turnovers.
"That's why we were behind," Holmes said of his team's refusal to take open shots. "Right now they're not ready. Confidence is what we're trying to build."
Mostly behind the inside play of forwards Matt Burrell and Michael Brewer, Morgan made a run early in the second half, cutting the lead to 63-48 on Robert Holmes' three-pointer with 12:01 left.
But Morgan could not even get off a shot in its next four possessions, turning the ball over each time. North Carolina A&T eventually settled down and increased the lead to as many as 31.
"I thought at some point we showed we had some potential," lTC
Holmes said of the brief comeback. "We just have to learn how to play. When you have an institution that hasn't won for a long time, it's hard."
Junior guard Darryl Cheeley, a transfer from Wake Forest who entered averaging nearly eight points a game, scored 16, one of five Aggies in double figures. Forward Jamaine Williams, one of the top freshmen in the MEAC when he played at Morgan two years ago, had 10 points and six blocks.
Burrell had 15 points and guard Obadiah Johnson added 10 to lead Morgan.