DOVER, Del. -- While Morgan State has played well at Hill Field House this season, take away the creature comforts and any team can lose its winning mojo.
What has really separated the Bears from the pack in this second season under coach Todd Bozeman is getting victories on the road.
So perhaps it's fitting that an unfamiliar landscape surrounded Morgan State in reaching one of the biggest wins in team history yesterday.
Playing before an increasingly boisterous crowd at Memorial Hall, the Bears ground out a slow, 39-36 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory over Delaware State.
The outcome - combined with Norfolk State's 87-72 loss to Hampton last night - clinched first place in the MEAC for Morgan State (19-9, 13-2), which has one game left in the regular season, Thursday against crosstown rival Coppin State.
The Bears will be the No. 1 seed in the league tournament March 11-15 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.
"I'm not even thinking about [a championship]," said Bozeman, who followed that statement by asking for other scores around the league.
"No, of course I'm not interested," Bozeman said with a laugh.
Morgan State had to win the game against Delaware State, a three-time defending regular-season champion, and do so against a team that played even stingier possession basketball than it's known for.
Marquise Kately led the Bears with nine points, and his team was lucky to get that much from him. Delaware State used virtually all of the 35 seconds on each of its offensive possessions and combined that with good defense throughout.
Delaware State (12-15, 9-6) played without its top scorer and the league's preseason Player of the Year, senior guard Roy Bright. Bright missed practice all week and didn't play because of a toothache, Delaware State coach Greg Jackson said.
Without Bright, who accounts for nearly 30 percent of the Hornets' offense, Delaware State was more than willing to play its stalling offense.
That presumably gave Delaware State its only chance for a victory. Hornets sophomore center Frisco Sandidge, who finished with a game-high 19 points, had a chance to send the game to overtime at the buzzer.
Morgan State center Boubacar Coly missed the second half of a one-and-one free throw with 7.1 seconds left that would have made it a four-point game. Delaware State junior Donald Johnson grabbed the rebound, and the ball was passed upcourt to Sandidge, who took a three-pointer at the buzzer. However, the ball fell short of the rim.
"We were trying to foul him for sure," Morgan State's Jerrell Green said. "But they made a nice pass, and he caught it and got the shot off."
The Bears' leading scorer, Jamar Smith, sat out because of an ankle injury.
Morgan State improved to 6-2 in MEAC road games this season. It is 11-0 overall at Hill Field House.
MORGAN STATE-Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Coly 1-7 1-2 3, Green 3-7 2-3 8, Holmes 2-6 3-4 8, Kately 4-12 1-2 9, Bolden 0-2 0-0 0, Barnes 2-5 0-0 5, Aujla 2-4 0-0 6, Hemsley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-43 7-11 39. DELAWARE STATE-Dickens 2-12 1-2 5, Sandidge 9-18 0-0 19, Welcher 2-5 0-0 4, Neal 2-4 0-0 4, D.Johnson 1-11 0-0 2, Mosley 0-0 0-0 0, White 1-3 0-0 2, Chavis 0-0 0-0 0, Parkes 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-54 1-2 36. Half-Morgan State 22-13. 3-point goals-Morgan State 4-13 (Aujla 2-4, Holmes 1-4, Barnes 1-4, Kately 0-1), Delaware State 1-12 (Sandidge 1-3, Neal 0-1, D.Johnson 0-8). Rebounds-Morgan State 35 (Coly 10), Delaware St. 31 (Sandidge 11). Assists-Morgan State 5 (Green 4), Delaware State 5 (D.Johnson, White 2). Total fouls-Morgan State 8, Delaware State 13. A-1,489.