Morgan State finally found out what it was like to enter a game with realistic expectations last night, and finally found out what it felt like to win, beating St. Francis, N.Y., 80-69, at Hill Field House in its first and last home game until mid-January.
The Bears (1-2), amid a grinder of an early-season schedule that includes dates with NCAA tournament regulars Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Georgetown, and UCLA, outscored St. Francis, 23-9, in the last four minutes to erase a two-point deficit.
"I think our conditioning really showed there," Morgan State coach Chris Fuller said. "I told them to get the ball going in the transition game and it benefited us."
Forward Chris Watson gave Morgan State the lead permanently with 3: 07 left when he hit an open jumper following a steal. Guard Jerard Rucker (Cardinal Gibbons) had tied the game at 60 on the previous possession with two foul shots.
The Terriers (2-2), who led by seven points with 8: 15 left, unraveled after Watson's three-pointer.
"This one takes a load off our shoulders," Watson said. "We have a young team and we needed to win one. We thought we had the game against Kansas State [an 85-66 loss] and now we just want to get something going. We don't want to lose anymore."
The Bears also lost to Georgia Tech, 74-58.
Morgan State was hot in the first half, shooting 13 of 23 from the floor, including a 6-for-7 effort on three-point tries. St. Francis was as cold (1-for-9) on three-point tries as the Bears were hot, but trailed just 32-31 at halftime in part by holding Morgan State to just three offensive rebounds behind 6-foot-10 freshman center Richard Lugo.
The gawky freshman finished with 10 rebounds -- seven defensive -- and amassed three of his seven blocks in the first half. Two of his blocks came on attempted dunks, and his presence in the paint began altering Morgan State shots in the second half.
The Bears' man-to-man defense kept Lugo a minimal threat offensively, however, and St. Francis was often reduced to hurried jumpers or drives.
Morgan State went scoreless for 3: 14 of the first half, but still led, 26-21, when Scott Deas (game-high 22 points) scored from 15 feet with 5: 05 left until halftime.
Pub Date: 12/08/96