Midway through the first half of Saturday’s game against Towson at Royal Farms Arena, Morgan State trailed by 14. Bears coach Todd Bozeman had apparently seen enough.
It wasn’t just what was happening in his team’s matchup with its local rival in the first game of the Charm City College Classic. It was the previous four meetings, all of them close losses to the Tigers during a five-game losing streak to Towson.
Using a full-court press, Morgan State cut its deficit to five by halftime, took the lead early in the second half and in a game that featured seven lead changes and six ties, survived for a 74-69 win.
Freshman guard Sherwyn Devonish-Prince Jr. led Morgan State (4-5) with 19 points, with senior guard Martez Cameron adding 14. Junior guard Brian Fobbs led Towson (2-7) with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Asked about how effective the press was, Cameron said, “We practice full-court pressing, we just stick to the game plan to get the ball in the [power forward’s] hands to try to slow them up to bring the ball up the court. We knew that it worked.”
In reality, it helped speed up the Tigers, who turned the ball over 14 times in the first half — several times against the press — and made 21 turnovers for the game, to only 10 giveaways for the Bears.
Towson coach Pat Skerry said his team should have had a bigger lead if not for the turnovers.
“I told them at halftime, ‘We’re up five and there were 14 possessions we didn’t get a shot, think about that,’ ” Skerry said. “Some of the turnovers were numbing.”
Trailing 33-28 at halftime, the Bears started the second half on a 20-9 run to take a 48-42 lead on a 3-pointer by Cameron with 14:30 left in the game.
The Tigers clawed back with a 16-9 run of their own to go in front, 58-57, on a drive by freshman guard Jakigh Dottin with 6:44 remaining.
Junior forward David Syfax scored two straight go-ahead baskets with less than two minutes to go, with the second giving Morgan State the lead for good at 69-67.
With the Bears leading 71-69, a layup by freshman guard Isaiah Burke sealed the game.
The victory was second straight for Morgan State. It was the third straight loss for Towson and sixth in seven games.
“This stings. We haven't lost one of these [to Morgan State] in a long time,” Skerry said. “Guys are trying. We're just not a good basketball team right now. You can't turn the ball over 21 times. That falls on me. Until we figure that out, we're going to struggle.”
Bozeman will take the victory, even though beating Towson didn’t seem to have any significant meaning to the Bears coach.
“Before he got here, we beat them every year,” Bozeman said later, referring to Skerry, now in his eighth season at Towson. “It may be closer to balancing out.”
Bozeman said he doesn’t consider the win over the Tigers more important than his team’s first three this season.
“Division I games, it’s hard to win games,” he said. “To get a win is a win. I love Pat. I think he does a great job. We want to win, it doesn’t matter. You want to say it’s a rivalry, we have a rivalry with everybody. We’re going to have a rivalry the next game when we go to [Old Dominion] because they beat us last time. It doesn’t matter to me.”