South Carolina State (18-13) vs. Morgan State (26-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 13t, 2:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (14,665) -- Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: South Carolina State 10-3, Morgan State 11-1. Away Record: South Carolina State 6-10, Morgan State 12-7. Neutral Record: South Carolina State 2-0, Morgan State 3-1. Conference Record: South Carolina State 10-6, Morgan State 15-1. Series Record: South Carolina State leads, 39-26.
GAME NOTES: Back in the title game of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament for the third straight year, the Morgan State Bears try to repeat as champions this afternoon as they tangle with South Carolina State at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem.
The Bears were almost unbeatable in conference play this season at 15-1, which is why they were made the top seed in this 39th annual event. Morgan State earned a bye into the quarterfinals where it defeated ninth-seeded North Carolina A&T without much effort in an 84-57 final on Wednesday. On Friday the squad captured a 74-67 win over fifth-seeded Hampton to move to 31-25 in the event overall.
As for the third-seeded Bulldogs, they first slipped by Maryland-Eastern Shore, the sixth seed, in a 59-53 triumph on Thursday and then followed that up with a 70-66 overtime win versus second-seeded Delaware State in the semifinals on Friday.
The teams split their two regular-season meetings, with SC State putting up a 71-68 victory in the most recent decision on the road in the middle of February. The advantage in the all-time series rests with the Bulldogs by a count of 39-26.
Jason Flagler scored a game-high 19 points, shooting 7-of-9 from the floor, while adding eight rebounds in SC State's win over Delaware State in overtime on Friday. Rio Pitt posted 11 points as he made good on all five of his field goals attempts, followed by Brandon Smalls and Carrio Bennett who both tacked don 10 points for a team that shot 53.1 percent from the field in order to offset 16 turnovers. Flagler, the leading scorer in five of the last six games, leads the team overall on the season with his 15.2 ppg, stemming from his impressive 55.8 percent effort from the floor and his 87 percent accuracy at the free-throw line. Darnell Porter checks in with 13.0 ppg, thanks in large part to his 41.1 percent shooting beyond the arc this season. The team as a whole has made a mere 30.7 percent on the perimeter.
Balanced scoring was the order of the day on Friday as the Bears put five players in double figures in the win over Hampton, but only one of them (Ameer Ali, 14 points) had more than a dozen points in the victory. Troy Smith and Joe Davis both came away with 12 points, followed by Reggie Holmes and DeWayne Jackson 11 points apiece as the team worked through 16 turnovers and just 2- of-8 shooting behind the three-point line. Morgan State won the meeting at the free-throw line where it held a 30-18 advantage. One of the top scorers in college basketball this season, Holmes is pouring in 21.9 ppg, having spent an inordinate amount of time at the free-throw line where he's made 234-of-286 chances. Toss in another 553 field goal attempts over the course of his 35 starts and you have a player who easily has his hands on the ball more than anyone else on the team. Kevin Thompson is averaging a double-double with 12.7 points and 12.0 rebounds per game, the latter making him one of the most aggressive players on the glass in the nation in 2009-10.
With so much going for them this season, there seems to be little reason to pick against the Bears at this stage of the campaign, especially since this is a revenge game for Morgan State.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Morgan State 79, South Carolina State 67
03/13 10:30:51 ET