If the initial set of conference games is any indication of what’s to follow, MEAC enthusiasts are in for a season full of twists and turns.
Five games were on the MEAC slate Wednesday night and none disappointed. No team won by double-figures, while conference favorites for tested wire to wire.
Here’s how it all went down.
Morgan State rallies past UMES, 85-82
Ask almost any coach and you'll probably receive a similar response: no game comes down to just one phase, play or situation. However, even after the Morgan State Bears roared back with an excellent second half, Maryland-Eastern Shore had two trips to the free throw line to all but seal the victory. Yet, those trips came up empty, leaving the door open for the Bears, who capitalized immediately.
Tiwian Kendley scored seven of his 28 points late, finalizing the 16-point rally for the Bears. It was his layup that finally gave Morgan State the lead, but more importantly, his five clutch free throws with under a minute to go closed out the ball game.
NCCU gets an early road win at Delaware State, 65-62
Another nail-biter took place last as the NC Central Eagles got a win that every team wants in the conference: one on the road. All wins are important, but wins are the road in the conference have so much value.
In this back-and-forth battle, I increased my appreciation of teams that can execute their brand of basketball. In a game where neither team had a fast break point, each team’s ability to be efficient within their half-court styles was impressive. Both teams shot well from the floor, with the Hornets at 48 percent and the Eagles at 51 percent. Second-chance points and Alston Jones free throws down the stretch allowed the Eagles to hang on for the win in an almost perfectly even game.
Norfolk State hangs on against Coppin State
The Norfolk State Spartans denied the Coppin State Eagles the chance to pick up their first win of the season with a 75-67 victory. The Spartans relied on several contributors to top the Eagles while doing it on both ends of the floor. The Eagles shot 37 percent from the floor but were able to stay within striking distance. They would even tie it in the second half, however the Spartans’ balanced offensive attack proved to be more than the Eagles could handle.
Florida A&M takes care of Howard
The Florida A&M Rattlers got their first win of the conference, 84-76, over the Howard Bison. Offensive explosions were on from the Rattlers and Bison in this conference opener. RJ Cole and Charles Williams combined for 51 points, Cole with 30 and Williams 21. But it was the Rattlers duo that would have the last laugh.
Desmond Williams and Elijah Mayes combined for 47 points of their own to lead the way for the victors. Williams was also a strong presence on the glass, grabbing 12 boards to go along with his 25 points.
Bethune-Cookman downs South Carolina State
Keeping up with the trend, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats made a late-game run to steal an 86-80 win over the South Carolina State Bulldogs. Using a 10-2 run with just under five minutes in regulation, the Wildcats seized control, getting their first conference win for new head coach Ryan Ridder.
Similar to FAMU, getting this first conference win for a new coach sets a strong foundation and tone for these two programs that are looking to change their recent history and move into a contender role in the MEAC. Ridder is getting that support on the court from players such as Brandon Tabb, who chipped in 15 points, and double-doubles from Shawntrez Davis (17 points and 12 rebounds) and Malik Maitland (15 points and 11 assists).