Bears Clinch the ‘Big Dance’

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The Morgan State Bears earned the biggest win of their season when they defeated the South Carolina State University (SCSU) Bulldogs, 68-61, on March 13 to claim their second consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship and punch their ticket to the NCAA championship tournament for a second straight year.

But the historic victory also offered “sweet revenge” against their conference foe. MSU (27-9 overall) has completely dominated the MEAC this season, finishing with an amazing 16-1 regular season record against conference opponents. But the one loss they suffered against a MEAC opponent came at the hands of SCSU in February, who snapped Morgan State’s 11-game winning streak by beating them, 71-68.

“They messed up one of my goals—I wanted to go undefeated in the MEAC,” said MSU senior star Reggie Holmes. “They made us cry, and I told [teammates], ‘This is our last chance to get them back.’”

Holmes was all smiles this time around, scoring 17 points to help Morgan State gain revenge and become the first back-to-back MEAC champs since Hampton won in 2001 and 2002.

MSU sophomore forward Kevin Thompson also performed well, scoring a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. The 6’9” Baltimore native from Walbrook High School was also named MEAC tournament MVP for his outstanding play.

Thompson, Holmes and the rest of the squad dedicated the victory to their redshirt freshman teammate Anthony Anderson, who was diagnosed with leukemia in October. Anderson couldn’t make the trip because the MEAC tournament conflicted with his chemotherapy treatment schedule, but the team said he was present in their minds.

The players have won patches with Anderson’s No. 4 on their jerseys all season, and did so on Saturday as well.

“This is what he wanted,” said MEAC Rookie of the Year DeWayne Jackson, who is also Anderson's roommate. “We were going to give him what he wanted.”

The Bears will now get what they’ve wanted all season, as they wait for the announcement of their seeding and opponent in the first round of the “Big Dance.”

MSU head coach Todd Bozeman, who was named the MEAC Coach of the Year for the third consecutive year, will take Morgan State to its second-ever NCAA tourney appearance.

“This is my fifth time [in the tourney], and it never gets old,” said Bozeman, who also took University of California to three NCAA tournament appearances during the 1990s. “Once you drink from that cup, you want to drink from it all the time.”