Sunday, February 21, 2016

MSU Lady Bears Knock Off N.C. Central, 66-55; Takeover First-Place In MEAC Standings

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Durham, North Carolina native Zuri White recorded her third double-double of the season, finishing with a game-high 12 rebounds and 10 points, to help the Lady Bears to a 66-55 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) victory over visiting North Carolina Central (NCCU) on Saturday afternoon at Hill Field House.

Braennan Farrar finished with 15 points, seven assists and four steals, all game highs for the Lady Bears (12-13, 10-3 MEAC), who improved to 7-3 at home. Benedicta Makakala added 10 points, while Lexus Spears and Tykyrah Williams each added eight points apiece for Morgan State, who won their fourth straight at home and improved to 5-1 in MEAC play at Hill Field House this season.

It wasn't pretty all the time, but in the end the Lady Bears ended a two-game losing skid to NCCU and also got some help from their crosstown rivals at Coppin State. Morgan State's win, coupled with Bethune-Cookman's loss to Florida A&M, along with Coppin State's four-point upset win over league-leader Hampton on Saturday, has the Lady Bears sitting in sole possession of first-place in the league standings.

The visiting Lady Eagles (4-20, 2-11 MEAC) jumped out to a 7-0 lead and held a 9-2 advantage, before Morgan State got going with a 12-0 spurt to take a 14-9 lead into the second quarter. Two free throws by Makakala got the run going and Spears' layup at the 2:15 mark in the first quarter gave the Lady Bears their first field goal of the game and cut the guests lead to 9-6. Morgan State then scored the next four points, capped off by a layup from Farrar to give the hosts their first lead of the quarter at 10-9 after one.

The Lady Bears concluded their 12-0 run, scoring the first four points to start the second quarter for the 14-9 lead. Back-to-back three-pointers by Farrar and Danielle Robinson gave Morgan State a 22-16 lead with 4:52 left in the quarter. North Carolina Central pulled within 24-20 on a basket by Tisha Dixon with 1:44 remaining, but the Lady Bears closed out the period with a three-pointer by Robinson, followed by a trey by Farrar, as time expired to give the hosts a 30-20 halftime advantage.

NCCU came out in the second half scoring the first six straight points in part of a 12-4 run to cut the Lady Bears' lead down to two points (34-32) with 4:56 left in the third quarter. Morgan State responded with a 9-4 run to extend its lead to 43-36, following a basket by White with 2:10 left in the quarter. The Lady Bears would cling to a 45-40 lead after three.

The guests pulled within 53-51, following two free throws by Kierona Morton with 5:39 remaining in the game. That would be as close as the Lady Eagles would get. The Lady Bears would score the next seven points, while holding NCCU scoreless for the next 5:17 to take a 60-51 lead.

A layup by Monique Whaley-Briggs with 22 seconds to play ended the scoring drought for the Lady Eagles, who would suffer their fourth consecutive game and eighth straight MEAC contest this season.

Dixon led NCCU with 13 points and 11 rebounds to earn a double-double. Chantal Thomas scored 11 points and had a team-high five assists and a game-high four steals. Whaley-Briggs came off the bench to score 11 points.

Both teams tallied 40 rebounds for the game. NCCU committed 23 turnovers, which Morgan State turned into 21 points. Morgan State had 15 turnovers as a team and the Lady Eagles scored 10 points off those turnovers. NCCU's bench held a 22-15 advantage.

Morgan State will battle North Carolina A&T State (11-13, 9-3 MEAC) in a crucial late season MEAC contest on Monday evening at 5:30 p.m. at Hill Field House. The Lady Aggies, who enter Monday's game tied with Hampton in second-place, were off on Saturday and was in a three-way tie for second with the Lady Bears and Bethune-Cookman, before Saturday's games were played.

The Lady Aggies hold a 36-21 alSCl-time series advantage over Morgan State and have won the last four contests against the Lady Bears. Last season N.C. A&T defeated Morgan State, 69-57 in Greensboro, N.C. (2/23/15).



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