UPDATE: Morgan State men's basketball coach Todd Bozeman said Tuesday morning that forward Thair Heath was released from the hospital late Monday night and was resting in his room on campus Tuesday. Heath will be reassessed by Morgan's team doctor later in the week, and Bozeman wasn't sure when or if he will return to action. "He was laughing and joking last night at the hospital," the Morgan coach said. "So that was good to see."
(Below is the story on Monday night's game between Morgan and Coppin State, during which Heath was injured in an 82-77 Bears victory.)
Morgan State got a scare Monday night as forward Thair Heath lay motionless for nearly 20 minutes after falling hard to the floor following a collision with a Coppin State player while driving to the basket in the first half.
Athletic trainers and a physician attended to Heath as they waited for paramedics to arrive at Coppin State's Physical Education Complex. Heath was eventually placed on a stretcher with a neck brace and taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
X-rays were negative much to the delight of Bears coach Todd Bozeman and the Morgan State players, who rallied around their injured teammate. Heath was in fair condition late Monday night, according to a hospital spokesperson.
"He's a great kid," Bozeman said about Heath, who is a senior from Los Angeles. "That's a good thing and we're happy about that. He's a good kid and he plays hard. He'll bounce back. He's a tough kid."
Play eventually resumed and Morgan State's Justin Black continued his tear through the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference by scoring 11 of 23 points in the first half, leading the Bears to the 82-77 victory before an announced 3,103. Bozeman is now 13-4 against the Eagles and has won more games against the cross-town rival than all of is his predecessors combined. The Bears still trail the all-time series 51-25.
"Coppin plays a different style than anybody we've played," Bozeman said. "They shoot a lot of threes so they're bound to make some. They didn't concern me. What did concern me was the penetration and not following our game plan of not letting the shooters get loose. I thought we made the adjustment in the zone and that slowed them up a little."
Ian Chiles added 23 points and Anthony Hubbard finished with 15 for Morgan State (10-14 overall, 7-4 MEAC).
Murray led Coppin State (9-15, 6-5) with 22 points, while Taariq Cephas had 16 and Andre Armstrong added 11. The Eagles were 4-for-22 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range
The Bears led 44-36 at the half, and remained in control. A 3-pointer by Blake Bozeman with 13:20 left gave Morgan State a 53-45 lead. The Eagles would not go quietly and stayed within single digits for most of the way. A free throw by Dallas Gary with 10:24 remaining pulled Coppin State to within 57-53.
After a 3-pointer by Black increased the margin to 66-59 with 7:20 remaining, Cephas kept it close with a pair of free throws. Morgan State continued to play solid defensively and never let the Eagles go on any type of decisive run. A pair of dunks by Chiles left provided a 76-67 lead.
"We've been having issues so I wanted to come out as aggressive as possible," said Black, who is averaging 18.7 points per game. "They kept coming and kept it close. It was a good, hard-fought battle.
However, Brandon St. Louis converted an ensuing free throw after being fouled while converting a layup and Cephas had an uncontested drive to pull Coppin State to within 76-72 with 52 seconds left. Cedric Blossom sealed the game for Morgan State with a free throw in the closing seconds.
Black scored seven consecutive points to give the Bears a 11-6 lead with 15:49 left in the half. Coppin State eventually cut the lead to 13-9 when Heath was injured with 13:51 remaining.
After the Bears extended the lead to 22-13, the Eagles began to pick up the pressure and cut into the lead. A 3-pointer by Murray cut the margin to 29-26 with seven minutes left.
A jumper by Jerimyjah Batts gave the Eagles their first lead, 32-31, two minutes later. Morgan State, however, regained control with a 3-pointer by Blake Bozemand and a layup by Anthony Hubbard to take an eight-point lead into the break.
The Bears outscored Coppin State, 28-8, in the paint and had 10 points off six Eagles' turnovers.