The losing continued for the Morgan State basketball team last night, but there were some encouraging signs.
For at least the first 34 minutes, Morgan played defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Florida A&M tough. But the Bears faded badly at the end, losing 96-78 at Hill Field House.
Morgan was down by only 73-68 with 6:12 left when the Rattlers went on a 23-10 tear that left Bears coach Michael Holmes shaking his head in disbelief.
During the burst, Florida A&M was virtually unstoppable on the ++ fastbreak.
The Rattlers, 7-3 in the MEAC, broke down the court for several dunks and took advantage of continuing Morgan foul trouble.
DeLon Turner and Kelvin Daniels led the late Rattlers surge and wound up with a combined 49 points. Turner, who entered the game as the third-leading scorer in the MEAC with an 18.4 average, scored 27.
Daniels added 22 for the winners, and Reginald Finney had 17.
Morgan, a loser of six straight, was led by Charles Feagin and Michael Brewer, who had 11 each.
Feagin, Brewer, Jarrad Smith and Matt Burrell fouled out for Morgan State, which committed 31 fouls, compared with 16 for Florida A&M.
The Rattlers were 28 of 45 from the line. Morgan was 11 of 20.
"The difference in the second half for us was we were able to keep them off the boards," said Rattlers coach Willie Booker. "And Turner was unbelievable in the second half [when he scored 16 points]."
Holmes agreed that rebounding made a difference. He said when the team lost 6-foot-11, 300-pound Smith with 5:24 left, and Morgan down 75-68, "we had no more front-line players left. We )) had already lost Michael Brewer [6-8] and Matt Burrell [6-7, 250] on fouls."
Holmes, whose team has averaged 28.5 fouls, said his players have to work on positioning themselves better on defense, instead of blaming officials for the calls.
"We work hard on defense all the time," Holmes said. "But we still keep committing all these fouls. We're not a good zone defense team, so we have to concentrate on playing a strong man-to-man without the fouls."
Holmes said the Bears need a clutch player on offense and defense to make them better.
"We never have any consistency," Holmes said. "One night we have one guy show up and play well and the next night it's someone else. We don't have one guy to go to on offense, and we don't have a man to make a big defensive play."
Last night, the Bears were too unselfish at times on offense, passing up open layups to pass the ball to a trailing teammate.
Those decisions proved costly several times, as the Rattlers picked off the passes and started successful fastbreaks.
Morgan fell behind in the first half when Florida A&M spurted to a 35-23 lead with 5:58 left.
But the Bears rallied behind a fullcourt press, scoring nine straight to reduce the lead to 35-32 with 3:22 remaining.
Morgan drew closer with 28 seconds left, as Burrell hit a layup off an impressive pass by Obadiah Johnson to cut the Rattlers' advantage to 40-38.
However, Florida A&M answered with the final four points of the first half on two free throws by Darrell Williams and a jump shot by Turner for a 44-38 lead.