After watching his team struggle throughout the first half against lightly regarded Howard yesterday, Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman delivered a halftime speech that players said held back little.
"I can't really tell you [what I said], but I wasn't happy," Bozeman said.
Once play resumed, his outlook quickly changed. Paced by the long-range shooting of guard Reggie Holmes (St. Frances) - whose 22 points led five players in double figures - Morgan scored 16 straight points early in the half to take command, easily putting away the short-handed and overmatched Bison, 78-56, at Hill Field House.
"I just didn't think that we played with any passion. We didn't have any focus," Bozeman said. "But they picked it up in the first five minutes [of the second half]. The guys responded well."
With the win, Morgan (10-9) improved to 5-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference heading into tomorrow night's home matchup with Hampton, which is 3-2 in conference play.
The Bears have won two straight and five of six overall, moving above .500 for the first time this season. They outscored Bethune-Cookman and Howard by a combined 56 points in their past two games and have beaten the Bison five straight times in the past three seasons.
Howard (3-15, 1-4), which earlier in the season lost 14 straight, saw its two-game winning streak end. The Bison dressed just eight players, with one ill and three academically ineligible, yet managed to hang close for much of the first half.
Though Morgan controlled nearly every aspect of the game early, the Bears' poor shooting - 9-for-24 to open the game - kept them from pulling away.
They led by two late in the first half before using a 7-0 run to build a 21-12 lead. Holmes' three-pointer from the corner with just more than a minute left helped them take a seven-point lead into the break.
The real surge, however, came after halftime. Leading 30-25, Morgan outscored Howard 16-0, with point guard Jermaine Bolden (11 points, nine assists), a Douglass graduate, pushing the ball on offense, then feeding it to Holmes, River Hill grad Rogers Barnes (13 points) and Marquise Kately and Walbrook grad Kevin Thompson (10 each).
The Bears also out-rebounded the Bison 42-25, grabbing 13 offensive boards.
"We just gave it more, and our defense picked up," Holmes said. "In that huddle, I told them, 'Defense.' "