WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Thompson had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Morgan State claimed its second consecutive NCAA tournament berth by beating South Carolina State 68-61 on Saturday in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title game.
League player of the year Reggie Holmes added 17 points for the top-seeded Bears (27-9). They shot 53 percent to overcome 20 turnovers and avenged their only regular-season conference loss by becoming the first repeat MEAC champion since Hampton in 2001 and '02.
Khalif Toombs had 15 points to lead the third-seeded Bulldogs (18-14). They were denied their first NCAA berth since 2003 after shooting 31 percent and committing 19 turnovers.
Morgan State held South Carolina State without a field goal for nearly 6 minutes and used a 13-2 run to take a 44-34 lead with 11½ minutes left, then went 5 for 6 from the line in the final 2 minutes to seal it.
Then, seemingly every time the Bulldogs threatened to get back in it, the Bears dumped the ball into Thompson and let him do the dirty work underneath. Midway through the half, South Carolina State twice made it a six-point game — and each time, Thompson responded with baskets in the paint.
DeWayne Jackson scored 12 points and Joe Davis added 10 for coach Todd Bozeman's Bears. Their next stop: another trip to the NCAA tournament, perhaps as a No. 15 seed again — just as they were when they were routed 82-54 last year by Oklahoma.
The Bears got a measure of revenge against South Carolina State, which snapped their 11-game winning streak by beating them 71-68 last month in Baltimore. Jason Flagler, who scored 24 in that game, finished with 12 this time on 4-of-13 shooting while Darnell Porter also scored 12 points.
For a while, South Carolina State looked fatigued — and understandably so, after needing overtime to upset second-seeded Delaware State in a semifinal some 15 hours earlier. The Bulldogs missed 15 of their first 18 shots while Morgan State used an early 16-5 run fueled by four 3-pointers to take its first double-figure lead, 20-10. But South Carolina State reeled off 11 straight points to temporarily tighten the game up.