Morgan State Bears junior guard Aric Brooks hit two free throws with 13.4 seconds left that turned out to be the difference in a 67-66 victory over Robert Morris University (RMU) at Hill Field House in Baltimore Dec. 31.
“When I brought the ball across half court, I was waiting for one of the guards to come get the ball because we were going to set a play up,” Brooks said of the final seconds. “But they were being denied, so I just wanted to attack the basket and the referee called a foul. You know the rest of the story.”
Brooks and sophomore forward DeWayne Jackson were the only Bears to score in double figures in the game. Jackson led everyone with 25 points, while Brooks followed with 13.
Morgan State (5-6) took control early with a 15-0 run in the first half. Starting when MSU trailed 7-4, Jackson scored 11 of the 15 points, including a three-point play with 13:22 left to give the Bears a 19-7 advantage.
“We were aggressive, and we got to stay aggressive,” said MSU head coach Todd Bozeman. “That’s something that we have to continue to work on. So we’ll keep grinding it out.”
Robert Morris (4-8) was able to get out of the doldrums and cut the Morgan advantage to 29-25 on a lay-up by freshman forward/center Deion Turman with 1:16 left, but the Bears took a 34-28 lead into halftime.
The Pittsburgh, Pa. team used their quickness on offense to eventually tie the game at 42 on a lay-up by sophomore forward/center Lijah Thompson with 11:51 left. Yet they couldn’t take advantage of numerous opportunities a little later with missed free throws and three-point shots that fell short of the mark. Morgan State retook the lead 44-42 on a layup by junior forward Ameer Ali with 9:59 left.
RMU still had plenty of chances to turn the momentum around in their favor, but just couldn’t capitalize on numerous shots inside the paint.
“I can’t imagine the number of lay-ups we missed,” Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole said. “I would have to say it’s in the double digits just off my recollection right now. We’re going to go back and watch the film and we’ll get an exact number. But we left a ton of points out on the table. We just didn’t execute the way we needed to offensively.”
Morgan starts the New Year on Jan. 4 with a trip to Waco, Texas for a battle with No. 23 Baylor, before going into Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play Jan. 8 against Howard at home at Hill Field House.