Morgan State almost couldn't stand prosperity yesterday, but the Bears persevered against several Bethune-Cookman rallies and scored a 59-55 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory at Hill Field House.
Buoyed by the return of leading scorer Randy Dukes and Douglas Sims from suspensions, the Bears shot ahead 24-6 at the outset with Dukes and Sam Brand combining for five three-pointers.
But, by halftime, Bethune-Cookman (7-19, 5-11) was tied after Morgan struggled in an 11-minute stretch in which it scored one field goal.
"You can't win a game in nine minutes," Morgan coach Butch Beard said. "And we don't have the mental toughness yet to stay where we were."
Still, Morgan (7-19, 6-10) doubled its MEAC win total of last season by taking control at the start of the second half and fending off the Wildcats the rest of the game.
With Richard Toussaint (game-high 26 points) collecting nearly every key basket, Bethune-Cookman stayed in contention until the final seconds, when Stan Grandy made two free throws to give the Bears revenge for a 79-71 loss in Florida on Jan. 27.
Part of the problem for Bethune was a 5-for-12 second-half showing at the foul line. Toussaint missed six of the chances, including two with 57.9 seconds left that would have shaved Morgan's lead to one for the fourth time in the half.
"We turned it over a lot in the first half and missed on a lot of 3 on 1s [fast breaks]," Wildcats coach Cliff Reed said. "Then we missed our free throws in the second half."
The Bears missed a chance last month for a first-round bye in the MEAC tournament (which goes to the top five teams), so they probably will meet Bethune-Cookman for the third time in a play-in game between the eighth and ninth finishers.
"It'll probably be another dogfight," Beard said.
Dukes scored 13 points, three fewer than Brand, before leaving late in the game with leg cramps. He also grabbed eight rebounds in his first appearance since Feb. 10, helping the Bears level their home record at 6-6.
"Having Randy back puts a few points on the board and takes a little pressure off Sam, who doesn't have to think he has to score every time he touches the ball," Beard said.
BETHUNE-COOKMAN-Toussaint 8-21 8-14 26, Reed 3-7 0-0 6, Williams 2-3 2-2 6, Frink 2-3 0-0 6, Ba 1-7 4-6 6, Riddick 1-8 1-2 4, Picard 0-1 1-2 1, O'Neal 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 17-53 16-26 55. MORGAN ST.-Brand 5-12 2-2 16, Dukes 5-11 1-2 13, Andrews 3-9 2-2 8, Sims 3-6 1-2 7, Grandy 1-3 4-5 7, Patrick 3-5 0-0 6, Barrow 1-6 0-0 2, Timus 0-5 0-0 0, Snipes 0-2 0-0 0, Davis 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-60 10-13 59. Halftime-28-28. 3-point goals-Bethune-Cookman 5-16 (Toussaint 2-4, Frink 2-3, Riddick 1-6, Reed 0-2, Picard 0-1), Morgan St. 7-17 (Brand 4-8, Dukes 2-4, Grandy 1-3, Barrow 0-2). Fouled out- Williams. Rebounds-Bethune-Cookman 35 (Ba 12), Morgan St. 44 (Andrews, Dukes 8). Assists-Bethune-Cookman 4 (Ba), Morgan St. 9 (Barrow, Brand 3). Total fouls-Bethune-Cookman 18, Morgan St. 22. A-564.