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MEAC Monday: League dynamics after week four

Morgan State has been sharp without Tiwian Kendley, while North Carolina Central dropped one at home

NCAA Basketball: Coppin State at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

As exams approach and conference games are on the horizon, here is a look at how teams are preparing for the most brutal part of the year.

Morgan State finding its way without Tiwian Kendley

To no surprise to anyone familiar with Todd Bozeman’s Morgan State Bears, their group is finding a way to play at a high level despite missing a key component in Tiwian Kendley.

Any team that has to find production due to the absence of a player-of-the-year-type guy will certainly have questions. Although the Bears went 1-2 last week, there is much to like in terms of how they are competing and taking on the challenge. A three-game road swing started in the right direction, getting a 69-63 victory over Mount St. Mary’s — an NCAA tournament team a season ago.

Phillip Carr has been as dominant as expected, as he averaged 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during the road trip, including double-doubles in a narrow 73-66 loss to George Washington (17 points, 11 rebounds) and against Mount St. Mary’s (12 points, 14 rebounds).

Perhaps the most fascinating development is the rise of freshman Lapri McCray-Pace, who received MEAC Rookie of the Week honors. McCray-Pace has provided another perimeter option to an already well-balanced offensive attack. He led the way offensively with 15 points against the Mountaineers and chipped in 11 points in the 66-59 loss at Navy.

The three-headed group of Martez Cameron, Phillip Carr, and McCray-Pace is coming together at the right time.

North Carolina Central can’t stop hot-shooting Southeast Missouri State

It was all about perimeter shooting Saturday night inside the McDougald-McClendon Arena. Host North Carolina Central met Southeast Missouri State for the second time in a week, as the Redhawks looked to avenge a Nov. 26 loss.

What a difference that week made for SEMO, as it took home an 86-77 victory in a tough environment. It wasn’t a lack of offense that struck a nerve for head coach LeVelle Moton, given how the Eagles shot 50 percent and produced the same number of points they had in the win last week.

The Redhawks torched the Eagles from behind the arc, connecting on 10 of their 16 three-point attempts.

“My daughter and her friends can come out here and defend the three-point line better,” Moton said after the game.

He also challenged his team, the juniors and seniors in particular, to step up and lead after such a tough night defensively.

A bright spot for the Eagles was the 26-point effort from freshman Reggie Gardner Jr. Even as he went for 26 points, he shared similar sentiments as his head coach.

“Defense is going to win us these tough games and we have to defend home court,” he said. “We can’t allow another team to come in our house and beat us.”

Coppin State battled with the Hoyas

Coppin State hung with Georgetown for a half, before ultimately falling 76-60. It was a late first-half surge by the Hoyas that was too much of a challenge for the still-winless Eagles. However, for head coach Juan Dixon, he has to be pleased by the defensive effort and the kickstart to a struggling offense.

Coppin State was able to knock down shots from the perimeter off of excellent ball movement, and dribble-drive and dish sets. Although it didn’t last, it shows that this group is improving with some pieces that are gaining more confidence. Karonn Davis is one player who is elevating his game. He was fearless in attacking, getting to the foul line, where he went 10-12 on his way to a team-high 20 points. Along with Davis, Taqwain Drummond found the range from the perimeter, knocking down three from behind the arc.

The level in which the Eagles competed shouldn’t go unnoticed, as Georgetown has yet to lose and Coppin State is still winless.