Ashia McCalla got things started for the Morgan State women’s basketball team. Then Chelsea Mitchell ended Delaware State’s evening.
McCalla, a sophomore shooting guard, scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half, and Mitchell, a senior forward, chipped in 12 of her game-high 17 in the second as the duo powered the host Bears to a 61-41 victory over the Hornets before an announced 732 at Hill Field House on Monday.
McCalla, who added three rebounds and two assists, and Mitchell, who pulled down a game-best 17 rebounds (including eight offensive boards) and had two assists, bookended Morgan State (14-13, 10-4 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) to its eighth win in its past 10 games. The Bears remained tied with North Carolina A&T (18-8, 10-4) for third place in the league after the Aggies defeated UMES, 72-57.
“It’s nice to have a balance like that,” said Mitchell, a Columbia resident and Atholton graduate. “It takes the pressure off of me a little bit. Really, everybody can score. Every game is different, and it’s a different player stepping up. So it’s nice to have that.”
Said McCalla: “Everybody can score. Nobody has pressure on them to score all the time. So everybody’s comfortable, and everybody can do their thing.”
Redshirt junior forward Dahnye Redd contributed 10 points and four rebounds before fouling out with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter. But coach Edward Davis Jr. said the diversity of scoring has been a blessing.
“It’s great because you can go deep on the bench in your substitutions and not worry about the offensive side of it because the kids know who’s supposed to touch the ball when we make those substitutions,” he said. “If Chelsea’s not scoring in the first half, Ashia’s our No. 1 option. And then we can look to Redd. We’ve got a lot of options.”
McCalla hit a 3-pointer from the right wing just 16 seconds into the game and had eight by the end of the first quarter. But she admitted that even she was a little stunned by her outburst.
“In shootarounds and warmups, I was struggling to make shots,” she said with a smile. “I don’t think I made more than 10 shots. So I was like, ‘This might be a long game.’ But as soon as I shot the first one, I just needed to make another one, and I’d be good.”
McCalla helped the Bears take a 27-23 lead at halftime. They opened the third quarter on a 12-4 run courtesy of eight points from Mitchell, who said she was not frustrated by her five-point, six-rebound outing in the first 20 minutes.
“I wouldn’t say anything clicked,” she said. “I just stay focused. I knew there was more game left, and I just had to stay focused.”
Graduate student forward Tierra Floyd paced Delaware State (12-14, 8-5) with 10 points and six rebounds, and junior forward Demaurea Moore totaled nine points and 13 rebounds.
But Davis said the defensive strategy called for limiting junior guards Sharajah Collins and Lyric Turner and senior guard Lanayjha Ashe, who combined for 11 points on 4-for-19 shooting after teaming up for 35 points on 11-for-26 shooting in a Hornets’ 69-61 win against Morgan State on Jan. 4.
“We didn’t realize that they shot so well,” he said. “They shot maybe 50% in the first half. We came back and outscored them in the second half, but it was too much of a deficit. This game, we were more focused, and we knew a little bit more about their shooters. So it was just a matter of who wanted it more tonight, and that was our focus.”
Both Mitchell and McCalla said the memory of that loss in the first meeting with Delaware State drove them and their teammates.
“They’re a team that likes to get hyped and talk a lot of trash,” McCalla said. “So that made us want to win even more. It was just a competitive match, and we came out on top this time.”
The Bears continued to outscore the Hornets in the second half, putting up 17 points in the fourth quarter to their nine. Davis said that relentless nature is a welcomed departure from what had been the norm in previous seasons.
“Ever since I’ve been at Morgan, we’ve had a tendency to hit the wall and not finish games like this,” he said. “This team’s a little bit hungrier. They want to have an objective and right now, our objective is to try to finish out the last three. So it’s great that we’re able to do that, and that’s something we can feed on.”
COPPIN STATE@MORGAN STATE
Saturday at Hill Field House
Women’s game, 2 p.m.
Latest College Basketball
Men’s game, 4 p.m.