Bears use defense, rebounding to get revenge on Pirates

Victory is far cry from opening loss

Smith scores 22

Morgan State 76 East Carolina 70

December 19, 2006|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN REPORTER

The Morgan State men's basketball program is progressing, step by step.

It made another move forward last night at Hill Field House, parlaying a strong defensive and rebounding effort into a 76-70 victory over East Carolina, a member of Conference USA.

The outcome reversed an earlier result when the Bears opened the season in Greenville, N.C., and absorbed a 19-point whipping from the Pirates (4-5), who have lost four games in a row.

"We're getting better, and I told them I'm proud of them," Morgan coach Todd Bozeman said. "But it's by no means complete. We've got to keep working."

Morgan (2-6) built something 12 days earlier when it scored a rare home triumph over cross-town rival Coppin State, and a break for examinations didn't halt the momentum.

"The Coppin game was big. To win the first MEAC game was a statement," Bears senior guard Joe McLean said. "You feel good about yourselves after something like that."

Transfer Jamar Smith, whose 22 points topped Morgan's offense, said: "Beating Coppin meant a lot because they hadn't beaten them here in a number of years."

Last night, the Bears fell behind 4-0 in the opening minutes, then went on an 11-0 tear and never trailed again. They had a 14-point cushion (36-22) nearing halftime before guard Brandon Evans hit two free throws and a conventional three-point play and then fed fellow freshman John Fields for a dunk to end the half with Morgan ahead 36-29.

East Carolina, which has only one senior on the roster to help guide eight freshmen, really didn't make a serious charge until a nine-point run that trimmed the Bears' edge to 65-61 with less than two minutes to play.

But Boubacar Coly, McLean and Smith made all the clutch free throws down the stretch to parry the rally.

East Carolina was hindered when Fields suffered a shoulder injury early in the second half and left the game. That deprived the Pirates of their defensive presence in the middle, but coach Ricky Stokes, the point guard on the Ralph Sampson-led Virginia powers of the early 1980s, wouldn't blame the loss on that.

"It hurt us because we missed him on the defensive side," Stokes said. "But we turned the ball over too much and got out-rebounded. Give them credit."

The Pirates shot 52 percent in the first meeting and hit nine three-pointers. Last night, they had only six from long range, and only a late surge brought their shooting percentage up to 50. Morgan had a 35-25 rebounding advantage and was particularly active on its offensive board.

McLean finished with 19 points and Ronald Timus had 13 for Morgan, which played a lot of team basketball.

EAST CAROLINA - Farmer 2-6 3-6 7, Captain 5-10 0-0 14, Jenkins 6-15 5-9 18, Fields 5-6 2-3 12, Blair 2-4 0-0 4, Dillard 3-3 0-0 6, Hinnant 1-5 1-2 4, Gagnon 0-0 0-0 0, Ingram 0-0 0-0 0, Ramsey 0-0 0-0 0, Evans 1-1 3-3 5. Totals 25-50 14-23 70. MORGAN STATE - Green 0-2 2-4 2, Timus 6-7 1-2 13, Coly 2-5 3-5 7, McLean 5-13 7-9 19, Smith 7-12 5-8 22, Holmes 0-5 3-4 3, Barnes 1-1 0-0 2, Berkley 4-6 0-2 8. Totals 25-51 21-34 76.

Halftime-Morgan State 36-29. 3-point goals-East Carolina 6-14 (Captain 4-6, Hinnant 1-3, Jenkins 1-3, Farmer 0-2), Morgan 5-12 (Smith 3-4, McLean 2-5, Green 0-1, Holmes 0-2). Rebounds-East Carolina 25 (Blair, Farmer, Hinnant, Jenkins 3), Morgan 35 (Coly, Smith, Timus 7). Assists-East Carolina 8 (Jenkins 4), Morgan 15 (Coly, Green, McLean, Timus 3). Total fouls-East Carolina 20, Morgan 16. A-N/A.

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