NORFOLK, VA -Fifth-seeded Morgan State limited South Carolina State to 20 second-half points in rallying for a 61-52 win over the Bulldogs Monday in opening-round action of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament at The Scope.
Coach Murray Garvin's team, which was the 12th seed, led 32-29 at the half, but was outscored by the taller Bears 32-20 in the final 20 minutes. With the loss, the Bulldogs ended the campaign at 6-24.
Morgan State, which improved to 15-14 on the season, advanced to Thursday's 8 p.m. quarterfinals against fourth-seeded Savannah State, a 59-44 winner over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
SC State, who forged a 32-29 advantage at the half, scored just six points in the first 12 minutes of the final 20 minutes in falling behind 46-38 when Dwayne Jackson put back a follow shot for the Bears with 8:58 to play.
Ian Chiles, who stands 7-2, scored six of his ten points and Jackson had five of his 12 for the game during the Bear's 17-6 run to start the second half. Reserve Anthony Hubbard came off the bench for 16 points to lead Morgan State, whose bench outscored the Bulldog reserves 27-8. Shaquille Duncan was also in double figures for Coach Todd Bozeman's team with 10 points
"It was a tale of two halves," said SC State's Garvin. "We fought hard, got off to a good start, but things did go well in the second half."
"We battled as hard as we could on both ends," said Khalif Toombs, the Bulldogs' lone senior. "But we came up a little short."
The taller Bears, who were out rebounded by SC State 36-34 were led on the boards by Chiles with seven. Duncan and Blake Bozeman had six boards each.
Matthew Hezekiah had 17 points and a team-high 10 rebounds to lead SC State. Darryl Palmer added 11 points and nine boards, while Toombs ended his career with 10 points and three assists.
"Toombs has been a warrior for this team for four years," noted Murray of the Atlantic City, NJ native. "He played hard since day one and never accepted losing."
The Bulldogs scored the first twelve points of the game on two baskets by Hezekiah, a put back by Joint and 3-point baskets by Toombs and Palmer. Joint started the run with a follow shot at 19:14 of the opening period, Palmer nailed a 3-pointer for a 5-0 Bulldog advantage at the 18:48 mark and following a Morgan turnover, Hezekiah got inside for a short jumper at the 18:16 mark for a 7-0 edge, Toombs followed with a 3-pointer and Hezekiah got his second basket of the run for a 12-0 Bulldog cushion.
The Bears, taking advantage of Bulldog turnovers and second-chance opportunities, scored eight unanswered points, four each by Justin Black and Hubbard to close to within 12-8 with 13:31 showing. Palmer got his second basket of the game inside to break the Bear run and give his team a 14-8 lead with 12:30 on the first-period clock, but Morgan State used a 9-3 run to deadlock the contest at 17-all on a Hubbard 3-pointer with 8:11 remaining.
The Bears took their first lead on Hubbard's follow shot that gave Morgan a 19-17 lead with 7:24 left. SC State regained the lead at 20-19 when Hezekiah completed a three-point play with 7:00 on the clock. Morgan State came back to go ahead 21 20 on Chiles' ally oop basket, but the Bulldogs closed the half on a 12-8 run to take a 32-29 lead to the locker room.