Morgan State's men kept rolling last night, but it wasn't easy.
The Bears received a stern test from Norfolk State at Hill Field House before a clutch three-pointer by Jermaine "Itchy" Bolden fractured Norfolk's final run and sealed Morgan's third straight victory and sixth in the past eight games, 74-70.
The outcome kept the preseason favorite in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference atop the league standings and ended the Spartans' two-game winning streak. It also avenged a 71-69 Norfolk State win over the Bears last season, one of only two losses Morgan suffered in regular-season MEAC play.
Balance was the comforting factor for Morgan (8-8, 3-0) when star Reggie Holmes was held to one first-half point and finished with only 11, including an eight-point outburst midway through the second half that forced Norfolk (3-11, 1-2) into comeback mode.
Marquise Kately, freshman Kevin Thompson (Walbrook), Rogers Barnes (River Hill), Holmes (St. Frances) and Rodney Stokes (Old Mill) scored in double figures for the Bears, who were out-rebounded 37-28 but shot nearly 50 percent from the field and forced 19 turnovers.
"Reggie isn't the only guy we've got who can score," said Bolden (Douglass), who swished a 23-footer from the side after Norfolk State had rallied to within 69-68. "We got enough guys to hold the scoring down."
Morgan coach Todd Bozeman added: "Sometimes, your main shooter is not going to be the guy in one particular game. Reggie is still going to be the one we look to, but it's a good thing to have balance. We have some people who can score inside and outside."
Barnes applied the last punctuation mark with two free throws with 6.4 seconds left as Morgan overcame 21-point outputs by two all-MEAC Spartans, shooting guard Michael Deloach and forward Corey Lyons, both quick and productive.
Deloach was the culprit last season with a buzzer-beater that won the teams' only meeting in Norfolk.
Bozeman had no qualms about Bolden making his second three-pointer of the game in that crucial situation.
"He's our leader," the coach said of his point guard. "I'd argue the point if he hadn't shot that confidently. It wasn't like he was hesitant about it."
Said Bolden, "I knew it was going."