For the second game in a row, Morgan State junior Kevin Thompson came off the bench to turn in a dominating performance, scoring a game-high 22 points to help Morgan State defeat Bethune-Cookman, 61-48 in the the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) tournament semifinals at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Morgan State (17-13), the No. 4 seed, advanced to play Hampton University in the MEAC championship.
MSU, who is playing in the tournament final for the fourth straight season, got off to a good start with nine points from Thompson and seven from Larry Bastfield. Morgan State shot 57 percent from the field.
Bethune-Cookman (21-12), the top-seed and regular season conference champion, was led by C.J. Reed, the MEAC Player of the Year, with seven points and Garrius Holloman with six.
In the second half, Thompson picked up where he left off in the quarterfinals. The 6-foot, 8-inch junior forward connected on six of eight shots from the field with a variety of textbook post moves that frequently left Bethune-Cookman defenders flatfooted.
“I didn’t know that Kevin Thompson was going to come in being so perturbed on being second team,” said Reed. “He’s playing like he was the guy that was picked pre-season player of the year and he has those interior guys to go with him in case he misses one. That was the difference.”
When Bethune-Cookman attempted to double him, Thompson kicked the ball out to create open shots for Bastfield and DeWayne Jackson, who combined for 16-second half points.
“We came out in the second half making an effort to throw the ball into Kevin and it really opened up things for the guards and our perimeter players,” said Bastfield.
Equally important in the victory was the Morgan State defense, which kept Reed in check. The 6-foot, 3-inch junior came into the game averaging 19 points per game, but Jackson, Morgan State’s defensive stopper, was mainly responsible for Reed missing 13 of 17, including 1 for 8 from beyond the arc.
“I feel he is our best defender,” said Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman. “He doesn’t always show it because of his maturity and tendency to get into foul trouble. You have to control Reed; he’s the player of the year. You have to give him that kind of respect.”