Photo courtesy of MEAC sports
A far cry from 365 days ago, the MEAC Men’s Basketball Tournament began in earnest on Thursday with the South’s No. 2 seed Florida A&M Rattlers facing the North No. 3 seed Morgan State Bears in the first of two quarterfinal games.
When all was said and done, Morgan State emerged in a thriller, 77-75.
Rattlers Start Strong, But Fade Early in Second Half
Florida A&M jumped out to a 25-17 lead a little over midway through the first half on the back of senior DJ Jones. The Rattlers led 39-30 at the break, but the tide would soon turn as the second half opened.
Morgan State used a huge 14-2 run to open the second half. What was a nine-point halftime deficit had become a three-point lead for the Bears.
That run saw Florida A&M go stone cold as it didn’t score for about four minutes. From the field, the Rattlers went 0-for-5 shooting during that stretch. Florida A&M also committed four turnovers in that stretch.
“(The run) was big,” Bears’ coach Kevin Broadus said. “It gave us some margin of error at the end of the game that we capitalized on. We just didn’t play well in the first half. I have to attribute some of it to the way (FAMU) played; they played really well in the first half. We came out in the second half and played the type of basketball we normally play. We weren’t selfish, we played team basketball.
“In the first half, we were looking for threes and we have to be better than that,” Broadus added. “We can’t just be a three-point shooting team; you have to be a complete team.”
While Morgan State was down early, it did make each of its first seven free throws.
Wear on a Tear
De’Torrion Ware had a massive night for the Bears, finishing with 35 points on 10-for-17 shooting with seven treys.
“He played an all-around game,” Broadus said. “He’s been locked in for the last week and we have had a tough three weeks; we were out for COVID(-19) and played a good Delaware State team. They were winless but they came to play and they beat us. We beat ourselves too but they beat us. He’s been locked in ever since.”
Florida A&M did mount a charge late as Morgan State didn’t make a field goal for the final 2:32. The Rattlers were able to cut a 10-point deficit down to one. Trailing by two on the game’s final possession, Jones’ three-point attempt for the win with no time left went long and the Bears were able to hold on.
Morgan State Stats:
De’Torrion Ware: 35 points, 10-for-17 field goals, six rebounds
Troy Baxter: seven points , 1-for-8 field goals, rebound
Malik Miller: eight ponts, 2-for-3 field goals, seven rebounds, four assists
Florida A&M Stats:
Jalen Speer: 18 points, 7-for-13 field goals, two rebounds, three assists
M.J. Randolph: 17 points, 6-for-14 field goals, two rebounds, three assists
DJ Jones: 10 points, 5-for-13 field goals, six rebounds, assist
Morgan State now faces Coppin State, the North’s top seed, for a spot in the MEAC Championship. The semifinal takes place on Friday night at 6 p.m. ET. Morgan State won three of the four regular season meetings between the schools.