Kevin Broadus, the coach of the Morgan State men’s basketball program, and Edward Davis Jr., the coach of the women’s team, have made a habit this winter of talking in person or via phone after games. More recently, their discussions have been more congratulatory than critical.
The men have compiled a 14-14 overall record and an 8-5 mark in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, good enough to rank fourth in the league. The women have been even better, going 13-13 overall and 9-4 in the conference to rank third.
The two programs are poised to finish the year in the top four of the MEAC for the first time since the 2010-11 season, when the men’s team was fourth and the women’s team was tied for second.
“We’re one Morgan,” said Broadus, who is in his first year as the coach after serving as an assistant under Mark Turgeon at Maryland. “We’ve all got to root for each other to win every game and try to stay at the top of the conference. It’s a good feeling for all of the student-athletes and all of the students here and the administration because winning breeds a positive atmosphere around campus. I always say that your athletic programs are the front porch of the university. A lot of kids — whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent — want to be around winners. So it’s a good time, a good feeling.”
Davis said because of the MEAC’s practice of scheduling the men’s and women’s teams of a certain program to play a doubleheader against another program, the two coaches and their teams have crossed paths and even united during a practice session before playing against South Carolina State last Monday.
“Coach Broadus has even come to the locker room sometimes after games and congratulates the girls,” he said. “We recently met in the circle together down at South Carolina State, and I kind of expressed to the kids where we were — men and women — and what we need to do if we plan to try to get to a higher level than we have in the past. It’s been a great communicative and cooperative effort between both teams.”
The women’s team has never won a league tournament championship, but that drought could end next month. The Bears lead the conference in turnover margin (plus-6.9), rank second in steals (11.2), and join Howard as the only squads with three players ranked in the top 13 in scoring.
Senior guard and Atholton graduate Chelsea Mitchell (second at 15.0 points per game), redshirt junior forward Dahnye Redd (ninth at 12.8) and sophomore guard Ashia McCalla (13th at 12.2) have fueled an offense that has averaged 62.8 points — a program high since the 2009-10 squad scored 63.5 points per game.
McCalla also ranks sixth in the MEAC in 3-point field-goal percentage (.342) and has combined with junior forward Lana Skripkina (.310) and senior point guard Jihayah Chavis (.287) to give the Bears some much-needed punch from the perimeter.
“It just opens the floor for the post players,” said Chavis, who ranks fourth in the conference in assists (3.5) and sixth in steals (1.9). “It creates a better offense, and it creates a better defense because when you’re shooting and you know that your shot is falling, that just motivates you to get back on defense.”
The men’s side captured conference tournament titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10, but had finished below .500 in the league each of the previous five seasons. This winter, the Bears lead the MEAC in offensive rebounds (12.6 per game) and rebounding margin (plus-3.6).
Although senior shooting guard Stanley Davis Jr. is the only player ranked in the top 10 in scoring at 13.2 points, the team’s strength is its defense, which leads the conference in blocks (4.2) and ranks second in field-goal percentage defense (.405) and third in points allowed (70.2). The last time Morgan State finished a season giving up fewer than 70 points per game was when the 2008-09 squad limited opponents to a 62.3 average.
“We keep our man in front of us,” Davis said, crediting Broadus with hammering home the importance of defense. “We definitely have fallen in love with the process of becoming a great defending team, not just individual defenders. We’ve become a great defensive team by working hard in practice so that it can all come together in games.”
The MEAC tournament begins March 9, but both teams have opportunities to strengthen or even improve their seeding beginning with Monday’s doubleheader against Delaware State. The women will face the Hornets (11-13, 7-4) at 5:30 p.m. with the men facing Delaware State (3-22, 2-9) afterward.
“It’d be really good,” Broadus said of the programs earning higher seeds in the tournament. “It would be cool for everyone. But it’s just a process, and we’re trying to take one game at a time and trying to get to that point. We’re right there, but you know how this game is. You can be on top today and on the bottom tomorrow. So we’ve got to stay focused on the next game. That’s the biggest game of the season for us.”
Since 1981-82, only four schools have boasted the conference tournament champions on both sides the same season. They are North Carolina A&T in 1994, Florida A&M in 1999, Coppin State in 2008 and Hampton in 2011.
Davis acknowledged that putting Morgan State in that elite club would be an incredible accomplishment.
“It would be great for the women’s program because they’ve never been that far,” he said. “And I think it would be outstanding for Coach coming into his first year to get to that plateau. It would just be an awesome thing.”