Morgan State and Coppin State are separated by about six miles in Baltimore City, and they are also neighbors in the bottom half of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's basketball standings.
In the 74th meeting between the two schools on Saturday, the Bears separated themselves a bit from the Eagles with a dominant 80-51 victory before an announced 2,516 at the Coppin State Physical Education Complex. Morgan State snapped a three-game losing streak, while Coppin State suffered its fifth consecutive loss.
"That was our best effort all year," Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said. "The whole year we've been trying to focus on keeping the turnovers down and rebounding, so we did those two things. I always knew we had it in us and it was just a matter of us focusing in and coming together."
Junior guard-forward Justin Black had a career-high 23 points for Morgan State, while senior forward DeWayne Jackson scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half. It was the largest margin of victory for the Bears (7-13 overall, 4-5 MEAC) since 2009 and the highest against Coppin State since 2007.
Junior forward Michael Murray had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Coppin State. The Eagles (5-20, 2-8) were without junior guard Andre Armstrong, who missed the game for violating team rules, and former Towson player Troy Franklin, who chose to leave the team last month for undisclosed reasons.
After Coppin State's Charles Ieans opened the scoring with a free throw, the Bears never trailed again. Morgan State pulled away with a 20-5 run midway through the first half and led 34-16 with four minutes remaining before halftime. Black then made a 3-pointer just past half-court at the buzzer and the Bears led 46-18 at the break.
"We've been going through a real rough phase," Black said. "This is one of the most talented teams since I've been here. Today we wanted to focus on getting loose balls and doing everything right. When you're doing that, big shots happen."
Morgan State shot 57.1 percent (16-28) in the first half and made six of 10 3-pointers. The Eagles converted just seven of their 33 field-goal attempts (21.2 percent) and were just one of 11 from beyond the arc in the opening half.
"Really, I don't understand the first half," Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell said. "We just didn't have the energy that it was going to take. It seemed like we didn't want to accept the challenge. Even though we came out in the second half with energy, it put us in the situation where we had to do a lot more gambling. There are some problems we're still working on."
Coppin State aggressively picked up the pressure in the second half to cut into the lead, but the Bears were simply too good. A layup and free throw by 7-foot-2 center Ian Chiles increased Morgan State's lead to 56-32 with 12:55 left, and the Bears continued to coast.
Morgan State has an opportunity to make up some more ground in the MEAC standings when it travels Monday to Howard, which has just two conference wins this season.
"Coach put it in our heads that we only have nine games left, and he told me this is the last time I'm going to be here, so it really just opened my eyes," Jackson said. "This is the first time we came together like that."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun