It took awhile for Morgan State to assert its size and ability last night. But once the trio of senior forward Ronald Timus, junior forward Jamar Smith and senior guard Joseph McLean got rolling in unison against North Carolina A&T;, the Aggies were cooked.
McLean and Smith each scored 20 points, and Timus produced 16 of his 19 points in the second half, as Morgan State shook off a ragged first half and took a 69-60 victory at Hill Field House.
The Bears (6-11, 4-3) won their second straight and their third in the past four tries, and looked like a potential contender in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Aggies (8-11, 4-3) had won five of their previous six games before last night.
Just cracking the .500 mark in the league standings was huge for Morgan, which is guided by first-year coach Todd Bozeman.
"That's really big, when you consider that we only won four games all of last year," McLean said. "The more chemistry we get, the better we're going to be."
Although they had trouble sustaining their offense in the first half and trailed at halftime 31-29, the Bears found the right mix last night with a lineup that has gone through some recent changes.
Senior 6-foot-8 center Timothy Berkley now starts, and Smith comes off the bench to provide a spark. Berkley (10 rebounds) helped secure the boards against the smaller, guard-oriented Aggies, who lacked the three-point shooting Morgan delivered.
McLean was on all night, making eight of 11 shots overall and four of five from three-point range. Reserve guard Reggie Holmes also made back-to-back three-pointers to stake the Bears to a 57-47 lead with 5:49 left. The Aggies never got closer than four points after that.
Then there was Smith, who wasted no time making an impact by scoring eight points in the first half. He also had eight rebounds in the game.
Timus, 6-6, tough around the glass throughout the second half, was the main catalyst. In the opening minutes of the half, Timus had a slam, two free throws and a layup, providing the first six points of an 18-2 run by the Bears, who turned a 36-29 deficit into a 47-38 lead with 13:01 left, and never trailed again.
"It doesn't seem real, two in a row," Bozeman said. "It's always been a matter of us finding our roles. The bigger lineup is good because it helps us control the rebounding. We didn't make our free throws [12-for-22], but this might be our best overall game."
The Bears forced 21 turnovers and held the Aggies to 2-for-14 shooting from beyond the arc.
N. CAROLINA A&T-Chaplin; 1-5 4-6 6, Roberts 2-3 0-1 4, Ewing 1-8 0-0 2, Hernandez 2-3 2-6 6, Booth 4-6 1-1 9, Rush 2-7 1-2 6, Nelson 1-4 0-0 2, Alston 0-1 0-0 0, Crumpton 0-0 0-0 0, Wills 7-12 6-8 20, Wilson 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 22-54 14-24 60. MORGAN STATE-Timus 7-11 5-6 19, Coly 1-3 0-2 2, Berkley 0-3 0-2 0, McLean 8-11 0-0 20, Barnes 0-3 0-0 0, Green 0-2 0-1 0, Holmes 3-8 0-0 8, Smith 6-12 7-11 20, Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 12-22 69. Half-North Carolina A&T;, 31-29. 3-point goals-N. Carolina A&T; 2-14 (Wilson 1-2, Rush 1-4, Chaplin 0-1, Nelson 0-1, Booth 0-2, Ewing 0-4), Morgan St. 7-20 (McLean 4-5, Holmes 2-6, Smith 1-5, Green 0-1, Barnes 0-3). Fouled out-Green, Roberts, Wills. Rebounds-N. Carolina A&T; 33 (Wills 11), Morgan St. 38 (Berkley 10). Assists-N. Carolina A&T; 11 (Ewing 3), Morgan St. 14 (Green, McLean 4). Total fouls-N. Carolina A&T; 19, Morgan St. 21. A-772.