GAME NOTES: Two of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's best square off at Hill Field House on Monday night, as the Morgan State Bears play host to the Hampton Pirates.
Hampton has won three straight games, all on the road, most recently downing Coppin State on Saturday afternoon in overtime, 79-76. The Pirates, who are 11-10 overall, improved to 6-2 in the MEAC, good for a three-way tie for second place with Norfolk State and Savannah State, a half-game behind first- place North Carolina Central.
After dropping back-to-back games, Morgan State got back on the winning track on Saturday with a 77-64 win over Delaware State, which allowed it to improve to 4-2 at home. Although the Bears are just 7-12 overall, they have turned things around in MEAC action (5-2).
The teams met on Jan. 20 in Hampton, with Morgan State prevailing on the road, 80-71. The Pirates still lead the all-time series, 40-28.
The Pirates led for most of the second half in their latest bout, including by one in the final minute, but after coughing up the lead in regulation they were lifted to victory in the extra session on a pair of Breon Key free throws with 1:34 remaining. They shot 48.2 percent from the floor on the afternoon and were paced by Jervon Pressley's 16 points. Du'Vaughn Maxwell had 11 points, Deron Powers tallied 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds and Brian Darden scored 10.
On the season, Hampton owns a lackluster field goal percentage (.420), but it holds its opponents to an even lower number (.396) and sports a +1.2 scoring margin. Maxwell is the anchor in the frontcourt with 14.6 ppg (on 51.3 percent field goal shooting), 6.7 rpg and 3.2 bpg. Powers (11.0 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Darden (9.1 ppg) are both regular contributors as well, but neither shoot greater than 37 percent from the floor.
The Bears fell behind Delaware State by seven points at intermission over the weekend, but they improved their field-goal percentage from .353 in the first half to .467 in the second as they took control and earned the 13-point victory. They also outscored DSU at the foul line, 20-10, and won both the rebounding (41-29) and turnover (12-5) battles. Ian Chiles drained 10-of-11 at the free-throw line and finished with 24 points and eight rebounds. Justin Black netted 14 points and Cedric Blossom registered 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Morgan State was beat up early in the season with a difficult non-conference schedule, which explains its -3.3 scoring margin and weak field goal percentage (.419), but it has scored 73 points or more in five of seven MEAC games. Black is one of the league's premiere scorers with 18.4 ppg, while Chiles (15.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg) and Anthony Hubbard (10.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg) are mainstays in the frontcourt. One glaring weakness for the squad is its dreadful free-throw percentage (.594), which has hindered it in close games.
Hampton has been fantastic on its current road trip, but Morgan State had the Pirates' number a few weeks back on the road and should be able to reclaim that magic on its home floor in this matchup.
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