Stepping up

Short-handed Bears learn about themselves against Terps

Morgan's mission

December 07, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

COLLEGE PARK --

Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said more than once that he wasn't into moral victories. The final score at Comcast Center last night was nothing to celebrate, for certain: Maryland 89, Morgan State 65.

On the other hand, the end of the first half had to count for something. There was, for example, the sound in the building after the halftime buzzer - a low moan, followed by confused silence, then supportive applause as the Maryland players and coaches headed to the locker room.

Even better was the sight: Gary Williams scowling, his suit jacket bunched up in his right hand as he stalked off the court. He had thrown it in anger after not getting a favorable call as the Terps' Greivis Vasquez got bounced around in the lane attempting the final shots of the first half. The Morgan State program should be honored to have been part of making Williams become so memorably unglued.

And there was the sight of the scoreboard, too. Terps 36, Morgan State 29. Not bad. Good omen for the second half.

But not really, as Maryland rolled throughout the last 15 minutes. So Bozeman couldn't find much to be happy about. Staying close to a recent national champion, a power-conference team, isn't good enough at Morgan anymore.

"I'm trying to stay away from what-ifs and excuses," Bozeman said afterward. "I'm not totally disappointed. Obviously, I don't like to lose. But when you don't have a point guard, you've just got to get some guys battling, and we did a good job doing that. We knew they weren't going to stop pressing us. But we learned some things. This is about teaching. You take this and you make life lessons."

Seeing Maryland never let up on the pressure - even when Morgan State found ways to break it during the first half, keeping the game close - was a real teaching moment. Morgan went into the game without its top three point guards, all injured: Roger Barnes, who has yet to play this season, and Jerrel Green and Jermaine Bolden. Backup guard Reggie Holmes started at the point, and forward Marquise Kately was the primary ballhandler. Kately turned it over only three times. He also hit only two of his 15 shots.

Maryland clearly was vulnerable; the Bears will wonder how long this game might have stayed close had they been at full strength.

Thus, it was hard to figure out what strides Morgan State has made in Year Two of the Bozeman era. The overall record, of course, still looks fine; the Bears fell to 4-4, but they still have three road wins, one short of last year's total and equal to the total in the three seasons before Bozeman arrived. This one would have packed a real punch, taking out the state's Division I Goliath, whom they had not played since 1994.

It also would have removed the word "almost" from the descriptions of the program. They almost beat Connecticut last month and almost won at Miami on Thanksgiving weekend. Besides moral victories, Bozeman is also tired of almosts.

Nobody wants to be the team that ends the run of "almosts." Williams certainly didn't, which partially explains why he flung the jacket. Of course, there are plenty of other things he has to worry about with this team. You wouldn't think that from the second half, when the Terps shot nearly 59 percent and outscored Morgan 53-36.

Maryland's depth was evident in Bambale Osby, who came off the bench and did most of the second-half damage for the Terps. The Bears brought a lot of players off the bench, but none of them slowed Osby.

"But you know now that later in the year, if you need guys, you've seen them play, and you know you can use them," Bozeman acknowledged, finding a silver lining in his depleted roster.

No, it wasn't a moral victory. But despite the final score, it wasn't a bad loss, either.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Listen to David Steele at 9 a.m. Tuesdays on WNST (1570 AM).

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