Morgan drops UMES to halt 12-game skid

January 15, 1995|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Contributing Writer

No one knew how to react.

Some roared with their arms pumping high, while others appeared stunned. But they all knew that the streak was finally over.

Behind a career-high 25 points from Brandon Battle and clutch free-throw shooting, Morgan State dropped UMES, 76-65, yesterday at Hill Field House to end a season-opening 12-game losing streak and become the last Division I team to win a game. The Bears, playing their first home game since Dec. 10, avoided their worst start in a decade.

"I don't know how to feel," first-year Morgan coach Lynn Ramage said. "It hasn't hit me yet. We shouldn't act like we won the NCAA title. It's like we were crawling before, but now we're stumbling."

The Bears (1-12, 1-2 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) stumbled with 39 percent shooting in the second half, but hit 17 of 21 free throws. They shot a season-best 80 percent (20 of 25) from the foul line.

After the Hawks (6-9, 2-3) outscored the Bears 6-2 (including five of Aaron McKinney's 31 points) in a two-minute stretch to cut the lead to 45-41 with 14 minutes left, Morgan State started to lose some composure. The Bears had made only one of their first nine shots of the second half and then had to call a timeout because they put six players on the court.

But led by reserve point guard Damian Zellous (13 points, five assists), the Bears collected themselves. Zellous had four points and an assist as Morgan State hit four of its next five shots, including three free throws, to push the lead to 56-47 with 10:41 left.

Morgan State took its first double-digit lead of the season when Jarrad Smith hit a turnaround jumper with nine minutes left to give Morgan State a 60-50 advantage. UMES would get no closer than seven as Morgan State, a 57-percent free-throw shooting team, made 14 of its last 15 foul shots.

"They won because they shot the ball well," UMES coach Jeff Mendey said. "They normally don't shoot free throws that well. But they did today."

Morgan State started the game horribly. Excluding Battle, the Bears missed four of their first five shots and made four turnovers to trail UMES 17-7 after 5 1/2 minutes.

Battle, a 6-foot-7 senior center, scored 10 of Morgan State's first 14 points to keep the game close. His three-pointer from the top of the key with 8:10 left in the first half gave the Bears their first lead at 22-21.

"I know I am a streak shooter," said Battle, who made all four of his three-pointers in the first half and finished 5-for-7. "When I hit my first one or two shots, I can feel it going in all night. In our offense, we try to feed the guy who is hot."

After Battle's three-pointer, the game featured nine more lead changes and one tie. Battle then made another three-pointer to spark an 8-0 first half-ending run that put Morgan State ahead for good, 40-33.

"We never yelled at the guys after any game because I knew they gave their best effort," Ramage said. "We could have easily got down on ourselves. It's satisfying to me that we didn't give up when we were ahead."

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