2023 MEAC Basketball Tournament: UMES (Maryland Eastern Shore knocks off Morgan State 80-64
The four-seeded Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks (18-12 overall and 9-5 in conference play), defeated the five-seeded Morgan State Bears (15-16 overall and 7-7 in conference play) 80-64 in the MEAC tournament quarterfinals.
The Hawks controlled the game from start to finish, as they expanded their lead to as many as 16 points in the contest. Jason Crafton’s team attempted 27 free throws while the Bears only attempted 9 on the night. Morgan State committed 25 fouls which led to the Hawks having 27 free throw opportunities. The Bears started implementing the full court press to put pressure on the Hawks and eventually reduced the lead to 6 at the 15:12 minute mark in the second half, but Zion Styles and the Hawks kept expanding their lead to close out the Bears.
Maryland-Eastern Shore had four players score in double figures in the victory against the Bears. The Hawks were led by senior guard Zion Styles, who scored 19 points and shot 7-9 from the field along with 2 rebounds. Styles was selected to the All-MEAC third team and All- Defensive team for the regular season by averaging 11.6 points per game along with 3.5 rebounds, respectively. Senior forward Nathaniel Pollard Jr, who was elected to the All-MEAC second team and led the conference in rebounds (8.2 per game), garnered 13 points and 9 rebounds in the win. The Hawks bench that consists of Sophomore forward Troy Hupstead and Senior guard Kevon Voyles both contributed 11 points each, respectively.
Hawks head coach Jason Crafton discussed his team's performance.
“Great game, I'm proud of our guys. We talked a lot before this game and we are going to do what we know how to do, which is defend. We forced 23 turnovers tonight and I thought that gave us a lot of opportunities for transition baskets. I was proud of how we rebounded the basketball, proud of how we defended, and proud of the fight,” Crafton stated.
The Hawks finished last season with an 11-16 record and lost in the quarterfinals against North Carolina Central in the tournament, now they advance to challenge the one-seeded Howard Bison, a team they split the season series with.
“It’s been a long road; this was a program that was rated dead last multiple years and these guys [Styles and Pollard] have been with me for three years. It’s not easy to win at Maryland-Eastern Shore as we only had 5 winning seasons in the last 50 years,” Crafton said.
Morgan State also had four players in double figures in the matchup. Senior guard Isaiah Burke, who was selected to the first team All-MEAC team, led the way as he scored 17 points and racked up 5 assists. Freshman guard Kamron Hobbs garnered 11 points while shooting 44 percent from the floor. Freshman guard Rob Lawson, who was selected to the All-MEAC rookie first team, tallied 11 points and junior guard Will Thomas added 10 points off the bench, respectively.
The Bears were outscored 25-15 after reducing the lead to only 6 at the 15:12 minute mark in the second half. The Hawks shot 52 percent from the field collectively, with 42 of their 80 points coming in the paint. Morgan State head coach Kevin Broadus conveyed his thoughts on the quarterfinal loss.
“I want to take my hat off to Maryland-Eastern Shore, they game planned to keep pressure on us, and it worked in their favor. We turned the ball over 23 times and that’s not who we are, but that’s what we were. Today was not our day,” Broadus said.
Maryland-Eastern Shore will advance to the semifinals to face Howard on Friday night at the Norfolk Scope.