RALEIGH, N.C. -- Boubacar Coly, Morgan State's 6-foot-9 enforcer who almost never uses his feet to get to the basket, roared down the lane last night for a thunderous dunk that restored order in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament and much-needed energy to the struggling Bears.
Coly's unlikely improvisation gave No. 1-seeded Morgan its first lead of the night with 11 minutes left in the second half of a semifinal matchup with Delaware State. More important, it ignited a furious stretch run that carried the Bears to a 61-55 victory and into their first MEAC championship game in 30 years.
Morgan can claim its first NCAA Division I tournament bid when it faces Coppin State at 8 tonight. When the Bears won their only other MEAC championship, in the 1976-77 season with an 82-77 win over Howard, they played in Division II.
While the Bears (22-9) are trying to create some history of their own, Coly, from Senegal, was attempting to atone for a controversial finish in last year's MEAC semifinals, when he was called for a foul that allowed Delaware State to escape with the win.
"The first shoot-around here, I went straight to that spot," Coly said after Morgan's seventh straight win. "I said that's not going to happen again. I felt like I let the team down last year."
There was all kinds of history popping up last night at the RBC Center. Two weeks ago, Delaware State, minus star Roy Bright, used slowdown strategy to stay close in a game Morgan ultimately won, 39-36.
The Hornets (14-16) had Bright back this time but couldn't capitalize on a 10-0 start in which the Bears were scoreless for the game's first 8:40. Morgan reeled through the first half shooting 4-for-17 and trailing 19-14.
"I'm really proud of the guys because we had some adversity tonight," Morgan coach Todd Bozeman said. "To keep some money in my pocket, I won't go further."
Bozeman picked up a technical foul in the game's first four minutes when he said he told one of the officials, "Man, you're killing us."
"I've said that plenty of times," Bozeman said later, "and never gotten hit."
The game turned after Coly took a pass from Karanvir Aujla at the foul line and took two giant steps to the dunk that gave Morgan a 27-26 lead with 11 minutes left. From there, the Bears attacked the basket and rolled to 47 second-half points, although Delaware State was within four points in the final 16 seconds.
Reggie Holmes led Morgan with 18 points, hitting 12 of 14 from the foul line. Coly had 13 points, 10 rebounds and one block.
It didn't help that the Bears got only 20 minutes out of Jamar Smith, their leading scorer and the MEAC Player of the Year who has an unspecified foot injury. Smith hit one of five shots in the first half and didn't shoot during two minutes of the second.
"Jamar showed tremendous courage," Bozeman said. "I kept him out the second half because he didn't have any balance to get his shot off. But like the guys said in the locker room, we're a team."
Bozeman said Smith would play in the championship game tonight if he's able. If not, Holmes likely would start in his place.
DELAWARE STATE--Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Neal 3-7 2-2 10, Dickens 2-4 1-2 5, Bright 8-19 4-5 22, Sandidge 4-5 0-5 8, Welcher 0-2 0-0 0, Mosley 0-1 0-0 0, White 4-5 2-2 10, D.Johnson 0-7 0-0 0. Totals 21-50 9-16 55. MORGAN STATE--Green 1-4 5-6 7, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Coly 5-7 3-3 13, Kately 3-10 1-2 7, Smith 1-5 1-2 4, Bolden 0-2 1-2 1, Holmes 3-4 12-14 18, Barnes 2-3 1-1 6, Aujla 2-3 0-0 5, Hemsley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-38 24-30 61. Half--Delaware State 19-14. 3-point goals--Delaware State 4-15 (Neal 2-2, Bright 2-7, Mosley 0-1, D.Johnson 0-5), Morgan State 3-9 (Aujla 1-1, Barnes 1-2, Smith 1-4, Green 0-1, Kately 0-1). Fouled out--Smith. Rebounds--Delaware State 25 (Bright 7), Morgan State 29 (Coly 10). Assists--Delaware State 7 (Sandidge 2), Morgan State 10 (Barnes 4). Total fouls--Delaware State 23, Morgan State 16. Technical--Morgan State bench. A--N/A.