NORFOLK- The Morgan State Bears took this MEAC quarterfinal round meeting with Florida A&M very personally. For the Rattlers, that was only the beginning of their bad news.
The way senior guard Justin Black took that loss was worn on his sleeve last night as he led the Bears with 29 points on their way to an 81-68 win over Florida A&M at the Scope Arena. Black said about the game, “They beat us on Senior Night a couple weeks ago, so the whole focus was slow down Jamie Adams and slow Lewis from scoring the ball. The first half we held Lewis to no baskets, but we let Jamie Adams get what he wanted some times. We were concerned that if he hit a couple of threes it would be a ballgame. So we wanted to come out with as much energy. It’s just a matter of how bad do we want it? I’ve been here four years and been to the championship game twice and haven’t won it. I’m trying to get there this year and win it.”
The win advances the Bears to the MEAC Basketball Tournament semifinals where cross-town rival Coppin State awaits them.
The key run for the Bears took place early in the second half as Morgan State (15-13) scored 14 consecutive points.
With 17:49 left and Morgan State ahead 38-36, the run began on an Ian Chiles short jumper. Black’s driving lay-up ended the run, giving the Bears a 52-36 advantage with 14:24 left in the game.
Chiles was able to alter the shots of Florida A&M (14-18). But he really took pride in that part of his game, saying, “I just try to get in guys way. Coach tells me all the time to keep my hands up. It’s tough for me because I try to put my hands down and go for a lot of blocked shots. Standing straight up, I’m probably about 9-feet with my hands in the air. I just have to learn to do that. If I do that, I can affect a lot of guys shots and be a presence without blocking shots all the time.”
Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman said about the defense, “He’s a rim protector and that’s what we told him. The thing he did today that he hadn’t done a lot this year is he just kept his hands up he didn’t really come down. I thought they were fouling him, coming underneath him a lot, but I thought he did a good job. I thought Shaquille Duncan did a good job and one time he even guarded Jamie Adams in the half court. We were doing a lot of different things on defense and they were talking and communicating. We had some breakdowns, but for the most part they did a good job.”
The MSU defense held FAMU’s second leading scorer Reggie Lewis scoreless in this game. FAMU head coach Clemon Johnson stated, “As I stated, we are an offensive team and Reggie is our second-leading scorer. When your second-leading scorer is giving you a donut as you media like to call it, then you are going to have problems. Then someone else has to pick up that slack. Jamie was trying to carry us the best to his ability, but again, being 6-feet playing against 6-4, 6-5 individuals, now he’s taking difficult shots. Not only that, he’s trying to get to the basket under my orders and that’s taking more energy from him. We just weren’t able to put the ball in the basket and we are an offensive team. We know we struggle on the defensive end and when we beat teams we’re shooting the ball well. When we shoot the ball well all of a sudden our traps and everything start working. Today nothing worked for us outside of hitting one or two shoots when we thought we were able to make runs, but once again we turn around and give them an And-1.”
Friday night will be an all-Baltimore party in the MEAC semifinals as Morgan State will face Coppin State, who shocked #2 seed Hampton 83-77 on Wednesday night. Chiles said about the rivalry, “To me it’s just another game. It’s a rivalry game, yes. They’re from Baltimore and we’re from Baltimore, but it’s just another game to us. We’ve had some success against Coppin and we hope to continue that tomorrow.”
Morgan faces off with #7 seed Coppin tonight at 8 pm.