The game was a microcosm of Morgan State's struggles this season: Almost. Just missed. Not quite.
Delaware State, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's second-place team, appeared ripe to be upset last night at Hill Field House, but the Bears couldn't quite pull it off.
Two attempts to force overtime with tip-ins rimmed out just before the buzzer, and Morgan lost a 54-52 decision to a team breaking down all kinds of barriers in 2002.
It was a frustrating ending for the Bears, who rallied from a 12-point deficit and succeeded in holding the three-point-minded Hornets to three second-half field goals after the first minute of the period.
Morgan thus absorbed its 20th defeat against two wins and dropped to 2-12 in MEAC play and 1-7 at home.
Delaware State (13-9, 10-3) continued its all-time best start in the league with its fifth victory in its past six games.
Trailing 54-48 with two minutes remaining, Morgan cut it to four on Curtis King's two free throws, traded turnovers, then closed the margin to two on Brandon Reece's layup off a steal of an inbounds pass.
Delaware State seemed ready to be had in the final seconds, missing three straight free throws, but Morgan couldn't sustain its counterattack, committing two turnovers.
In the final 3.8 seconds, Steve Snipes missed two free throws, and attempted tip-ins by Reece and King failed to go down.
"We didn't lose on those two free throws," said Morgan coach Butch Beard. "Our problem always has been an inability to sustain scoring. We kept making our run, but couldn't get over the hump.
"We missed opportunity after opportunity against a team that shot 22 percent [5-for-22] in the second half."
Russian-born forward Sergey Stephanenkov was the only reliable scorer for the Hornets after the break, hitting two quick threes, another three and a dunk on the break to maintain a 10-point lead for his team.
No one else scored from the field in the second half for Delaware State until Marty Bailey sank a jumper with 2:36 left in the game. Stephanenkov finished with six threes for a team that lives by them and was the game's high scorer with 20 points.
"I think we surprised them by going to a zone," said Beard. "That's the most zone I've played in a long time. But you just can't go five or six minutes without scoring.
"When you're playing catch-up, you have to be perfect, something we're not in terms of offensive execution. But we're a far cry better than what we were before."
King, the all-MEAC forward, topped the Bears with 19 points and Reece had 14 and 10 rebounds.
The victory was Delaware State's first at Morgan in five games.
DELAWARE STATE-Davis 2-6 2-4 7, Bailey 3-8 0-0 8, Matthews 3-8 1-2 7, Stephanekov 7-14 0-0 20, Robinson 0-2 0-0 0, Bowen 1-6 5-8 8, Nathaniel 0-0 0-0 0, Dent 1-1 0-0 2, Parker 0-0 0-0 0, James 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 17-46 10-16 54.
MORGAN STATE-Winkfield 2-7 0-0 6, Barrow 3-9 0-0 6, Dukes 1-4 2-2 5, King 5-11 9-10 19, Andrews 0-1 0-0 0, Grandy 1-4 0-0 2, Stallings 0-0 0-0 0, Reece 6-7 2-4 14, Scott 0-0 0-0 0, Fisher 0-0 0-1 0, Snipes 0-1 0-2 0, Ward 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-44 13-19 52. Halftime-Delaware State 36-30. 3-point goals-Delaware State 10-26 (Davis 1-4, Bailey 2-6, Stephanenkov 6-10, Robinson 0-1, Bowen 1-5); Morgan State 3-8 (Winfield 2-4, Barrow 0-1, Dukes 1-3). Fouled out-Matthews, Dukes. Rebounds-Delaware State 26 (Stephanenkov 8); Morgan State 38 (Reece 10). Assists-Delaware State 6 (Bailey 2); Morgan State 6 (Barrow 2). Total fouls-Delaware State 18; Morgan State 19. A-1,335.