Coppin State senior forward Akeem Ellis converted two free throws with half a second left to allow the Eagles to escape Hill Field House with a 88-86 win over the Morgan State Bears on Feb. 4 in Baltimore, Md.

It was a battle of runs for both teams early as the Bears got off to a good start going ahead 16-8 on a lay-up by sophomore center Ian Chiles with 13:27 left.

One of the few bright spots for the Bears was rebounding. MSU outdid Coppin, 42-31, which included a 17-8 margin on the offensive end.

“We rebounded better than we had in the past,” said MSU coach Todd Bozeman. “We came up short. But 19 assists was a plus on our part. There were some positives in it for us. Not that I’m a moral victory guy, because I’m not. But we’ve just got to keep getting better.”

MSU (5-15, 3-6 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) held the advantage most of the game until late in the first half when Coppin went on a 15-4 run. Senior guard Tony Gallo started it with a three-pointer, then senior forward Logan Wiens ended it with a jump shot, followed by a three-pointer with 7:04 remaining to give the Eagles a 29-27 advantage.

But the Bears fought back with a Chiles dunk and a couple of free throws from senior forward Kevin Thompson, who led Morgan with 19 points and 15 rebounds, giving the Bears the 31-29 lead with 4:17 left.

Coppin State (13-11, 7-3 MEAC) closed the second half by outscoring the Bears 14-7. The run was led by Tony Gallo, who scored a game high 28 points. Gallo gave the Eagles the momentum when he picked the pocket of senior guard Larry Bastfield and converted the lay-up, giving the Eagles a 43-38 advantage going into halftime.

With 16:47 left in the second half and the game tied at 49, MSU pushed ahead with a shot by junior swingman Aric Brooks, a Bastfield jumper, then a three-pointer from freshman guard Blake Bozeman. That run gave the Bears a 56-49 advantage with 15:30 left and some momentum on their side.

But Coppin fought back later on in the half. After Bozeman gave the Bears a 65-59 advantage on a three, the Eagles scored the next 11 points capped by a three-pointer from the outside corner by Gallo, which gave the Eagles a 70-65 lead with 6:57 left.

It came down to the last 20 seconds for both teams. Ellis, a senior forward, converted one of two free throws to give the Eagles an 86-83 lead. Then sophomore swingman Justin Black fed freshman forward DeWayne Jackson who hit a double-clutch bank shot three-pointer with 19.1 seconds, tying the game at 86.

On Coppin’s ensuing possession, Akeem Ellis had the ball and proceeded to drive it into the paint. As Ellis shot the ball, senior forward Kevin Thompson was called for a foul with a half second left, sending Ellis to the free throw line.

Ellis hit the first shot and then attempted to miss the second on purpose, but that shot went in. Sophomore forward Justin Black nearly sent the Morgan fans into delirium with a three-point attempt from the half court line. However, that shot just landed wide right, off the backboard which ended the game and some of Coppin’s fans stormed onto Morgan State’s floor.

Senior forward Kevin Thompson finished with 19 points and became the No. 9 leading scorer in MSU history with 1,419 career points despite the loss.

Morgan State will face Howard in Baltimore on Feb. 6; Coppin State moves on to face Delaware State on Feb. 11.

Keith Henry

Special to the AFRO