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Gibbs, Morse combine for 49 points to power Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball to win over Coppin State

Jalen Gibbs and Vado Morse like to compare themselves to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and the shooting guards for the Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball program did their best impression Friday night.

Gibbs and Morse combined for 49 points and 11 3-pointers to propel the Mountaineers to a 79-55 romp over visiting Coppin State before an announced 1,703 at Knott Arena.

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Gibbs, a junior, led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting (including 6-of-13 on 3-pointers), and Morse, a sophomore, chipped in 22 points on 7-of-13 field goals (including 5-of-8 from behind the three-point arc). Both players finished with six rebounds and three assists, and sophomore point guard Damian Chong Qui added 10 points, five assists and five rebounds.

Morse was the one who revealed the duo’s affinity for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers star tandem.

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“We kind of compare ourselves to Dame and CJ McCollum,” he said. “That kind of confidence boosts us well.”

Gibbs and Morse combined to shoot 9-of-17 from the floor, including 7-of-12 from 3-point range in the first half. But the offense shot a season-high 46.7% from behind the 3-point arc and a 45.6% from the court, which was the second-highest rate of the year.

“I just feel like tonight, we all got into a groove,” Gibbs said. “We were looking for each other instead of our own shot. We just played together. We played Mount basketball.”

Mount St. Mary’s coach Dan Engelstad was pleased to see his team find its shooting stroke early.

“Shooting the ball hasn’t been there,” he said. “Today, I don’t just think we shot the ball well, but we generated better shots within our offense. We were unselfish, and I thought the shots were there. … It’s been a struggle the past couple games, but to see Vado and Jalen really get back to form is something we need. Hopefully, this is just a start because we’ve said from the beginning that we believe we have a very good basketball team.”

The Mountaineers, who ended a four-game losing streak to improve to 4-9, have won all seven meetings with the Eagles, including three in the last four seasons. Mount St. Mary’s average margin of victory is 17.4 points.

Entering the game, the Mountaineers had struggled from three-point range, converting only 22.9% of its attempts from behind the arc. The offense, however, scored the game’s first nine points — all on 3-pointers — and after redshirt senior guard Kamar McKnight scored Coppin State’s first bucket on a layup with 17:01 left in the first half, Chong Qui, a Baltimore resident and McDonogh graduate, drilled a long-distance bomb to give Mount St. Mary’s its first double-digit lead at 12-2.

The Eagles battled back, using four points from McKnight to fuel a 7-4 mini-surge. But after a media timeout at the 11:44 mark, Morse sank three consecutive 3-pointers, and Gibbs added another to spur the Mountaineers to their largest advantage at 28-11.

Mount St. Mary’s, which enjoyed a 37-27 lead at halftime, shot 52.9% from 3-point range (9-of-17) in the first half. That exceeded the team’s previous best of 41.2% (7-of-17) in the first half of an eventual 75-67 overtime loss at Grand Canyon on Dec. 3.

Coppin State trimmed the deficit to as low as seven points twice – the last occurring at 49-42 after junior forward Koby Thomas slammed home a thunderous dunk over sophomore forward Chidozie Nnamane with 11:32 left in the second half.

But a layup by Morse and a pair of free throws from redshirt sophomore forward Nana Opoku returned the advantage to double digits, and back-to-back three pointers by Morse and Gibbs provided the Mountaineers with a 61-46 lead with 8:23 left in the game. Mount St. Mary’s was never seriously threatened after that.

Thomas paced the Eagles with team bests in points (17) and steals (three) and corralled six rebounds, but fouled out with 4:24 left in the game. McKnight compiled 16 points and seven rebounds, while graduate student forward Andrew Robinson totaled 13 points and four rebounds.

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Coppin State coach Juan Dixon pointed out that the team has developed a habit of starting slow and being faced with trying to mount a comeback.

“It’s part of the game. It happens,” the former University of Maryland star said. “But what you’ve got to do is continue to compete on the defensive end. We had stretches where we played well defensively, but we had some costly turnovers that hurt us. But it’s a game where you have to get better from, which we know we will.”

Coppin State will visit Fordham on Monday for one final chance to claim its fifth win against a non Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Division I opponent, which is the program’s single-season record.

Loyola Maryland 93, UMass Lowel 81: Andrew Kostecka had 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead host Loyola Maryland (8-4) to a victory over UMass Lowell (6-8). The Greyhounds extended their three-point lead in the second half by outscoring the River Hawks, 47-38.

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