Saturday’s matchup between Morgan State and Delaware State began with a clock issue. It ended with the Bears counting off their fifth straight win with a 74-69 victory over the Hornets with Lagio Grantsaan scoring 21 to lead the way.
Morgan State (11-4, 6-2 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) got off to a hot start with intense play from senior forwards Grantsaan and Troy Baxter. The duo began the game with 11 points in the first half. Grantsaan shot 3-for-4 from the field with two early 3-pointers and Baxter went 4-for-8.
The early attack was a continuation from Morgan State’s frantic comeback against crosstown rival Coppin State in which Baxter scored 28.
The key difference in the second half was Delaware State’s ability to shoot themselves out of a slump. While the Hornets shot just 11-for-29 from the field in the first half, they shot 6-for-14 from 3-point distance. They boosted their field-goal percentage to 43.8% in the second half and made 4 of 11 3-pointers.
the Delaware State (1-12, 0-7) effort wasn’t lost on Morgan State coach Kevin Broadus.
“That team that we just played — I know their record states [1-12] — they’re still got good players,” Broadus said. “They’re Division I players and those guys can score. Our guys didn’t take them lightly, they were just making shots. Now, we’re playing teams and we’ve got the target on our back now. We’re king of the hill right now. We’re in first place and people are not going to come in here and lay down. Normally teams get up to play first-place teams and they [Delaware State] were up.”
However, it wasn’t without its struggles. Delaware State came rushing back from a 29-14 Morgan State lead with less than 11 minutes left in the first half. Zach Kent and Shaft Clark knocked down two consecutive 3-pointers to cut Morgan State’s lead to 35-30.
It continued to get dicey for Morgan State once the game entered the second half with Delaware State scrapping for a tie at 39 after John Stansbury’s 3-pointer. Luckily for the Bears, guard Malik Miller diced up the opposing defense with six swift points in the second half to give the Bears a 48-41 lead and went on to lead all scorers with 13 points.
The Hornets came storming back with guard Dominik Fragala taking a layup to the hoop and burying a 3-pointer to cut the Bears lead to 52-48 with less than 12 minutes left. He was followed by a 3-pointer from teammate John Stansbury, but Grantsaan answered for Morgan State. Then, Delaware State came back with a dunk and a free throw made by Ameer Bennett. After a few lead changes, Morgan State trailed 62-60.
Miller and Grantsaan took over in the remaining minutes for the Bears. Grantsaan finished 7 of 10 from the field, burying two clutch free throws and making a layup. Miller slashed to the basket for a layup with less than five minutes left to finish with 19 points.
With a 69-68 lead, Grantsaan was part of a double foul with the possession staying with Morgan State. He answered with two layups and Sherwyn Devonish-Prince cleared the victory for the Bears by draining two free throws with eight seconds left.
“Malik is the glue to this team,” Broadus said. “When he goes, we go. You don’t have to run plays for him because you know he’s going to clean up everyone else’s mess. He played gimpy — he was hobbling the whole second half. He played through it and never asked to come out. He’s just the backbone of our team.”