Morgan squanders halftime lead, loses 68-66 to Howard in inaugural NBA HBCU Classic

Howard defeated Morgan in a crucial conference matchup in Cleveland during NBA All-Star Weekend.


Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Morgan’s men’s basketball team lost their sixth conference game in nine tries Saturday afternoon in Cleveland.

Tariq Turner, Sports Editor

CLEVELAND – Howard University’s men’s basketball team defeated Morgan State 68-66 on Saturday in the Wolstein Center during the inaugural NBA HBCU Classic.

The Bears traveled to the cold Midwest during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend to participate in a historic game between two celebrated HBCU institutions playing a regularly scheduled Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game.

While they performed impressively on the national stage and led at halftime, they were unable to hold on down the stretch.

The Bears played in front of an announced crowd of 4,732, which included Basketball Hall of Fame inductees, HBCU alumni, and celebrities from every sector such as Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Spike Lee.

The game was simulcast on TNT, ESPN2, and NBATV.

“We failed to win the game and that was our goal to come in and to win the game,” Morgan head coach Kevin Broadus said.

Morgan is now 8-13 on the season and 3-6 in conference play.

They must quickly regroup with their next home game on Monday against conference-leading Norfolk State (18-5 and 9-1.)

The NBA offered both teams and their institution an opportunity to share their stories on one of its largest stages during All-Star Weekend. After the game, both coaches reflected on the moment and the meaning for future schools participating. 

“HBCUs have always been good,” Broadus said. “Now they have that platform where now everyone is able to witness it.”

“The visibility definitely will be something that is there,” Howard head coach Kenny Blakeney said. “To have this type of opportunity to play and know that everybody that cares about basketball is probably watching is a big deal.”

Morgan officials said Broadus decided to make players unavailable for the media conference after the game.

After trailing in the first few minutes of the game, Morgan jumped out to an early 12-11 lead with 12:27 left in the first half.

Morgan maintained that lead until there was 5:54 left in the game and Howard sophomore forward Steve Settle made a pair of free throws to give his team a 57-56 lead.

Turnovers were a huge issue for Howard (14-10 overall and 7-3) in the first half as the Bison had 17 turnovers and only eight made field goals on 21 attempts.

Howard only had three turnovers in the second half.

“In the first half, we weren’t really playing our best ball,” Howard freshman guard Elijah Hawkins said. “We had 17 turnovers in the first half. We came out in the second half, cut down on the turnovers, and started playing our style of basketball.”

Morgan led 37-28 at halftime and junior guard De’Torrion Ware scored 11 points on 4-for- 6 shooting in the first half.

Ware finished the game with 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting.

“He was pretty good offensively,” Broadus said of Ware’s performance. “He played well in spurts.”

In the opening 17 seconds of the second half, Morgan senior guard Malik Miller fouled Howard graduate guard Kyle Foster on a 3-point shot attempt. 

Foster made one of three free throw attempts to cut the deficit to 37-29.

However, foul trouble would ultimately plague the Bears throughout the second half as Howard entered the bonus situation with 14:44 left in the half and the double bonus with 7:24 left in the game.

Howard finished the game shooting 76.3 percent from the charity stripe on 38 attempts.

“We’ve done a great job in probably our last six games at utilizing the free throw line as part of our offense,” Blakeney said.

With 3:27 remaining in the game, Hawkins made a layup to give his team a 61-60 lead.

On the next possession, Ware missed a 3-point attempt from the wing that could have put the Bears ahead. His shot missed short. 

The final few minutes of the game featured the teams exchanging turns at the foul line.

With just over 55 seconds left in the game, Hawkins made two free throws to tie the game at 65.

With 33.7 seconds remaining, Morgan senior guard Sherwyn Devonish drove to the basket and attempted a layup, but the shot was blocked by Foster.

Devonish subsequently fouled Foster and after Foster drilled two free throws, Howard led 67-65 with 31.4 seconds left.

On the next possession, Devonish drove to the basket again but passed the ball to an open Ware who missed a 3-point attempt. 

Needing to get the ball back, Morgan was forced to intentionally foul Foster with 15.3 seconds left.

Foster split a pair of free throws to pull Howard ahead 68-65.

With just under five seconds left, Morgan graduate guard Keith McGee attempted a 3-point shot over Hawkins from the top of the key but missed it wide right.

Miller then rebounded the ball and was fouled shooting a layup with 0.5 seconds left.

He made the first free throw and attempted to miss the second one intentionally, but committed a lane violation in the process.

Howard then inbounded the ball as time expired to win its sixth straight game. Foster finished with a team-high 18 points on just 3-for-8 shooting. He converted 10 of 15 free throws.

“[The game] is the first inaugural one so… this is great for Howard basketball and the university as a whole,” Foster said.