NORFOLK, Va. — Coppin State lost track of the hottest player in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament Friday night, and that's a big reason why it's headed home.
Morgan State guard Justin Black eclipsed his career high for the second straight night, pouring in 30 points to lead the third-seeded Bears past No. 7 Coppin State, 79-64, in the semifinals at Scope Arena.
The Bears (15-15) will face top-seeded North Carolina Central (27-5) in the title game at 6 p.m. Saturday.
N.C. Central advanced with a 68-45 victory over No. 4 Norfolk State in Friday's other semifinal.
"They're well coached and disciplined," Bozeman said of N.C. Central, which edged the Bears, 53-52, on Jan. 27 in Durham, N.C., in the teams' only regular-season meeting. "They do a good job, and we're looking forward to the matchup."
Black, who scored a then-career-high 29 points in Thursday's quarterfinal-round victory over Florida A&M, had 23 in the first half Friday and nearly outscored the Eagles by himself while helping the Bears build a 19-point lead at the break.
"We couldn't find Black," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said. "And if you can't find Black, you've got problems. He had a tremendous first half, and that really put us in a hole."
Guard Andre Armstrong scored 13 points and Sterling Smith chipped in 12 for Coppin State, but Michael Murray, Coppin State's leading scorer, finished with just six points on 2-for-9 shooting from the field.
The game began ominously for Coppin State, with the 7-foot-2 Chiles swatting away the Eagles' first two shots.
"I don't even think I jumped," Chiles said. "Just had my hands straight up. That's working for me right now."
Then Black took over.
His 3-pointer with 13:53 left gave Morgan State its first double-digit lead, 17-7, and Morgan State kept pouring it on in a first half that saw the Bears up by as many as 23.
The teams went into the locker room with Morgan State ahead 47-28.
"I just wanted to establish myself early," Black said. "They were sagging off me, worried about [Chiles], and I just got in a rhythm."
Smith scored eight points in the first half to lead Coppin State, which shot just 32.1 percent from the field, was outrebounded by 11 and surrendered 13 second-chance points.
"When we got behind, we didn't do what we normally do, which is battle back," Mitchell said. "And for whatever reason, I don't think we had the enthusiasm we've had the past two games. But you have to give Morgan credit for how they came out to play. They understood what they had to do, and they kept coming at us."
NOTES: NOTES: Coppin State came in with a 51-26 edge in career meetings, but Morgan State has won 14 of 18 since coach Todd Bozeman took over in 2006. Coppin State did prevail in arguably the biggest game in the series, a 62-60 victory in the 2008 MEAC championship game. ... The teams met twice within a nine-day span last month, and Morgan State won both times: 82-77 on the road Feb. 10 and 78-69 at home Feb. 19. Black averaged 22.5 points on 56.7 percent shooting from the field in the two games. ... The three-game winning streak that Coppin State took into the game was its longest of the season. Previously, the Eagles had won two straight on three occasions but each time failed to win the third.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun