Junior Robinson walked into the post-game press conference room first, and the Mount St. Mary’s guard kept his head down.
Robinson pulled a folding chair away from a table and sank into the seat, waiting for coach Jamion Christian and teammate Donald Carey to join him. Robinson fought through a persistent cough, and left the room at one point to compose himself.
Health wasn’t his concern, however. Robinson put much of Monday’s 69-63 loss to Morgan State on himself, as a senior floor leader tends to do.
“I had seven turnovers,” Robinson said after the game, which dropped MSM’s record to 2-5. “That’s a problem for me. I’m a senior, I mean … it’s as simple as that. I’m too old for that.”
Robinson and freshman guard Donald Carey sharing the scoring lead at 13 points, but the Mount struggled to find its flow all night. Robinson added eight assists and three steals with his seven giveaways, some of which led to buckets for the Bears (4-2).
The Mountaineers shot 32 percent from 3-point range, but 21.4 percent in the second half (3-for-14). Meanwhile, Morgan State went 4-for-6 from behind the arc in the half and shot 52.9 percent from the floor for the game.
LaPri McCray-Pace led the Bears with 15 points and Martez Cameron scored 14. Phillip Carr had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds — MSU won the battle on the glass 36-25.
Still, Christian said he thinks the Mountaineers are close to discovering their identity.
“We’re not where we need to be at right now, but we’re close,” Christian said. “We’ll find it … we’ve just got to keep working at it.”
It looked as if the Mount had enough left for the final stretch to keep Morgan State from its first win in this renewed series since 1982. The Bears led 57-46 with 3:12 to play before MSM trimmed the deficit to 58-55.
Carey drained a 3 with 1:29 to go, but Morgan State’s Antonio Gillespie matched that at the other end. Carey drew a foul on the next trip and made the first of two free throws. He missed the second, but freshman Bobby Planutis grabbed the offensive board and scored on a putback, putting the Mount to within 61-58.
Carey then converted a layup following a Morgan miss, and Mount St. Mary’s trailed 61-60. But the Bears caught the Mount in a defensive lapse, and David Syfax capped a fast break with a soaring slam dunk down the lane to put his team back up by three with 32 seconds to play.
Syfax and Carr each drained a pair of free throws in the final seconds and Morgan State held on.
Carey scored 10 of his 13 points in the final 2:55, which pleased Christian. But the coach doled out a little criticism for the rookie as well.
“We need him to do that for the rest of the time that he’s in the game,” Christian said. “He’s capable of doing that. I think when we get our backcourt, guys really playing together like that, we’re going to be pretty tough to stop.”
The Mount overcame a slow start by crafting a 17-2 run and taking a 21-14 lead in the first half. Freshman guard Jonah Antonio sank a 3 with 8:07 to play in the half, and senior Greg Alexander nailed a jumper on the next possession.
Morgan State answered with a 10-0 surge to regain the lead, 24-21. That’s when Robinson wowed the home crowd with a 30-foot 3-pointer as the shot clock neared zero.
McCray-Pace scored underneath with 24 seconds remaining, and the Bears led 32-28. The Mountaineers held for the last shot of the half, and it came from Carey — the freshman guard sank a 3 as he fell into Morgan’s bench players, ending the half with Morgan ahead 32-31.
The Bears got hot to start the second half, and took a 49-37 lead midway through the frame on a 3 from Azariah Sykes. They led 53-41 on two free throws from McCray-Pace with 8:56 to play.
Enough time for the Mount to begin its comeback, but the rally never fully materialized.
Alexander scored 11 points coming off the bench and Carey added eight rebounds. Mount St. Mary’s hosts Loyola on Saturday before road swings at Pitt and Lehigh next week.
“We’re all still trying to figure it out,” Christian said. “You need games like this to have to look in the mirror against good teams that are going to have a chance to win their league to really learn what you need to improve on.“