Morgan State remained unbeaten at Hill Field House last night, but the 69-63 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore appeared a lot more difficult than it should have been.
"When the game was on the line, we responded," said Bears coach Chris Fuller. "We came out breathing fire early, but we have to learn how to replicate that performance in the second half."
Morgan (5-11, 4-4) rolled to an 18-3 lead in the first 11 minutes while the Hawks went 1-for-17 from the field and committed six turnovers.
The lead was built to as many as 17 points before UMES (6-11, 2-7) finally got its offense rolling from the foul line and creeped to within 12 at the half.
Morgan, now 5-0 on its court, just couldn't hold onto the ball often enough to put away the pesky Hawks, who scored the first nine points of the second half and made a game of it.
"They didn't quit," said Fuller, whose team lost the first meeting, 72-60, at Princess Anne. "They're a good team. A lot of our mistakes came from their determination."
But some second-half offense from seniors Scott Deas (seven points) and Dwayne Holmes (six) helped fend off the Hawks, who played without a senior on the floor.
"We got some contributions from the bench," said co-captain Chris Watson. "Dwayne Holmes has been struggling, but he got some big baskets today. It was a good team effort."
The consistent figure for the Bears was forward Rasheed Sparks, who consistently beat the UMES defense down the floor for spectacular dunks and led all scorers with 17 points.
"Our set offense didn't give us a lot," said Fuller. "So, we made a living in transition. Our kids ran the floor well."
UMES hung in the game until eight minutes remained, trailing, 47-44.
But Deas wrestled the ball away from a defender to hit a layup and followed with a free throw to boost the margin to six.
Jerard Rucker knocked in a three-pointer, Holmes scored on a layup, Deas converted on a fast break and Sparks hit a follow shot. Suddenly it was 59-44.
The Hawks never got closer than the final margin the rest of the way.
Bram Reynolds topped UMES with 14 points before fouling out and point guard Joel Hoover had 13. Marcus Cheek, the No. 1 three-point shooter in the MEAC, went 4-for-18 from the field and settled for 10 points.
"Now, what we've got to do is get the confidence on the road we have at home," said Watson. "We don't feel we can lose here."
The Bears' next home test is a formidable one: They take on Coppin State tomorrow afternoon.
Coppin State 93, Howard 79: Reggie Welch scored 23 to lead the visiting Eagles to their fifth straight win.
The victory also moved Coppin State (9-7, 6-2) into a tie for first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with South Carolina State.
Coppin, which never trailed, opened the second half with a 14-7 run to take a 63-46 lead on a three-pointer by Welch, who had seven during the Eagles' spurt, at the 15: 29 mark.
Howard (4-12, 4-4) responded with a 14-5 run to pull within 68-60 on Melvin Watson's jumper with 9: 45 remaining. But the Eagles dominated inside and at the free-throw line in scoring their final 22 points.
Terquin Mott added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Coppin. Eric Dedmon led Howard, whose three-game winning streak ended, with 24 points.
In the first half, Coppin jumped out to a 25-11 lead before the Bison cut the margin to six points on a free throw by Garrett McCormick with 9: 12 left.
Coppin State led 49-39 at halftime.
Pub Date: 1/31/97