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Morgan defense wears out Howard Bears prevail, 61-57, in MEAC season opener


In a game in which both offenses were stumbling, Morgan State's defense was masterful last night, producing a 61-57 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference-opening win over Howard University in the Bears' first game at the Gilman School.

Though they shot only 38 percent from the field, the Bears (2-5) blocked 16 shots and stole the ball 13 times from Howard (0-7), still looking for its first win of the season.

"In a game where offense was pretty ugly, we knew that defense would decide the game," Morgan State coach Chris Fuller said. "Our pressure bothered them a bit, and it's a credit to our kids that they took it up a notch when they did."

Rasheed Sparks and Jeric Lewis, who combined for 41 points off the bench, provided the knockout blows for Morgan.

After trailing most of the game, Howard made a late charge, taking a 43-42 lead on a free throw by Ali Abdullah with 7: 21 remaining.

But after a Morgan free throw tied it, Sparks, who finished with 18 points, made a steal and a basket with 6: 53 left to give Morgan a 45-43 lead.

Another Morgan free throw made it 46-43, and after a steal and dunk by Lewis, followed by another Lewis steal that set up a Sparks free throw, the Bears led 49-43 lead with 5: 25 left.

In a game in which both teams combined to shoot 35 percent, six points was as wide a gulf as 60.

"We finally made them turn the ball over, and in a game like this, that's a lot of points," Fuller said.

Interestingly enough, Sparks' heroics were off the bench. He didn't start because he had failed to make a weight-training session as mandated by Fuller.

"He can dominate a game," Fuller said. "But I expect him to do a lot of other things that don't involve basketball. The standard for him is tougher."

So Sparks pledged to make amends for his shortcomings. "I won't miss anything else," he said. "Me and Coach had a long talk and I apologized to the team."

Howard coach Kirk Saulny expressed his awe that Morgan was able to get that sort of output from reserves.

"When you can bring an all-MEAC player off the bench, I don't think that's a luxury that everyone has," Saulny said. "But they certainly got away with it."

Michael Canady, who had been lagging of late, came through with five of the 16 blocks, working his way back into Fuller's good graces.

"I won't say he was in the doghouse, but he was in the yard," Fuller said. "He came up big tonight. I'm happy for all the guys who came out and gave us the leadership we needed."

HOWARD -- Abdullah 1-5 5-5 8, Holliway 2-7 0-0 3-6 7, Strange 0-3 0-1 0, Michell 4-8 0-2 9, Adams 1-3 0-0 3, Hawkins 1-2 0-0 2, Watson 7-22 0-4 15, Bayyon 1-2 1-2 3, Alvin 2-5 4-6 8, McCormick 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 20-60 13-26 57.

MORGAN STATE -- Demory 1-4 0-0 3, Fields 0-8 0-0 0, Reece 0-3 0-0 0, Sparks 7-12 4-10 18, Van Hook 0-2 0-0, King 3-7 0-0 6, Bullock 1-2 0-0 2, Canady 1-5 2-4 4, Herron 0-2 0-0 0, Qualls 2-2 1-2 5, Lewis 5-6 13-16 23. Totals 20-53 20-32 61.

Halftime--Tied at 27. 3-point goals--HU 4-14 (Watson 1-5, Abdullah 1-4, Michell 1-2, Adams 1-2, Bayyon 0-1); MS 1-10 (Demory 1-4, Fields 0-4, Reece 0-1, Sparks 0-1). Fouled out--Canady. Rebounds--HU 46 (Watson 10); MS 43 (Canady 8). Assists--HU 11 (Abdullah 5); MS 8 (Fields 4). Total fouls--HU 24, MS 20. Technicals--Morgan State, Sparks, Rasheed.

Pub Date: 12/08/98

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