With the school's first regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament locked up, Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman could have been forgiven if he wanted to give his starters a breather last night. But when the opponent is Coppin State, and with city bragging rights on the line, the Forestville native knew that taking this game lightly was not an option.
Despite being without leading scorer Jamar Smith (foot injury), the Bears took the Eagles' best shots and still came away with a hard-fought 68-64 victory on Senior Night before an announced 4,500 last night at Hill Field House.
Marquise Kately and Boubacar Coly each scored 13 points to lead the Bears. Tywain McKee scored 17 for Coppin in the losing effort.
"There was still a lot to play for," said Bozeman, whose team finished the season 12-0 at home. "You want to go out your last home game as a winner and ... it was our crosstown rival."
Physical play dominated the game early. Midway in the first half, the Eagles' Vince Goldsberry was driven to the floor by Rogers Barnes on a dunk attempt. Goldsberry missed both free throws but later gave the Eagles their second lead at 15-14 when he hit a three-pointer.
After Kately's put-back and two free throws by Jermaine Bolden gave the Bears an 18-15 lead, Coppin State surged ahead on McKee's jumper with 6:18 left. The Bears then went on a 16-5 run to open up a 10-point lead at halftime.
The Eagles (12-20, 7-9) pulled within three with 9:10 left on Mike Miller's layup. Coly responded with a quick basket and then Barnes hit back-to-back threes to push the lead back up to 11.
Miller's three with under a minute left made it a one-possession game. The Bears, however, made enough free throws to secure the victory.
"It gives us a lot more confidence," Kately said about beating back the Eagles' repeated charges. "Especially without Jamar."
The win gave Morgan State (20-9, 14-2) a sweep of the season series for the first time since 1988-89 and caps the best regular season in the school's Division I history. The 20 wins are the most since the Bears won 22 in 1975-76 as a Division II school, quite a feat for a team that won only four games two years ago.
Afterward, Bozeman told his players he was thankful they remained faithful to him.
"I thanked them for believing in me," he said.
COPPIN STATE-Conyers 3-8 0-0 8, Harrison 3-5 0-0 6, Pressey 4-8 2-4 10, Miller 2-5 6-7 10, McKee 4-13 9-10 17, Goldsberry 1-2 0-2 3, Duncan 3-4 0-0 6, Chesnut 1-2 2-2 4, Kucinskas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 19-25 64. MORGAN STATE-Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Coly 6-8 1-2 13, Kately 6-11 1-5 13, Green 1-1 0-0 2, Aujla 3-10 0-0 8, Bolden 2-4 5-6 9, Holmes 3-8 4-7 11, Barnes 4-7 1-3 12, Hemsley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 12-23 68. Half-Morgan 34-24. 3-point goals-Coppin 3-9 (Conyers 2-4, Goldsberry 1-1, Miller 0-2, McKee 0-2); Morgan 6-21 (Barnes 3-6, Aujla 2-8, Holmes 1-5, Bolden 0-2). Fouled out-Conyers, Harrison. Rebounds-Coppin 33 (Pressey 13), Morgan 31 (Coly 11). Assists-Coppin 6 (McKee 4), Morgan 12 (Bolden, Green 4). Total fouls-Coppin 21, Morgan 18. A-4,500.