The men’s basketball team (2-4) ended a three-game skid with a hard-fought 81-75 victory against Morgan State (2-4) at the Pizzitola Sports Center Wednesday. It was Bruno that came out on top in the battle of the bears, despite trailing by as much as 12 points in the second half. Co-captain Tavon Blackmon ’17 and forward Joshua Howard ’20 paced the squad with 20 points apiece. Meanwhile, co-captain and top Ivy scorer Steven Spieth ’17 flirted with a triple-double again, contributing 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Bruno came out with the hot hands, shooting 8-for-11 from the field to start the game and enjoying a trio of three-pointers for Blackmon and four layups from Howard. The team raced out to an eight-point lead with a little more than 12 minutes left to play in the first half.
After a timeout, the visitors erased Bruno’s lead with a 14-0 run, taking a six-point advantage. In turn, the hosts scored eight unanswered points of their own to restore their lead with two and a half minutes remaining in the opening half.
But Morgan State closed out the half on an 8-2 run — with six of those points coming from forward Phillip Carr — taking a 34-30 lead into halftime.
Both teams came out confident in the second frame. Though Bruno committed four fouls in the first minute and a half, Blackmon continued his hot shooting with a three-pointer that brought the team within two. The two sides exchanged layups and free throws before the visiting Bears charged out in front. Five consecutive turnovers by Bruno allowed the team’s opponents to go on a 10-0 run, extending the deficit to 12 points with 12 minutes remaining.
Travis Fuller ’19 stopped the bleeding with a put-back layup from an offensive rebound while also getting fouled. He made the subsequent free throw and helped to spark a 10-0 run by Bruno — capped off by a three-pointer by co-captain JR Hobbie ’17 — over the next minute and a half to bring it back within two.
Over the next four minutes, the sides traded baskets, but the visitors remained in front. Corey Daugherty ’19 sank a three to tie the game at 64-64 with six minutes left before Hobbie gave Bruno its first lead since the end of the first half with a three of his own.
Morgan State retook the lead off a couple of free throws, but Obi Okolie ’19 turned the tables for the last time when he seized back the advantage with his own free throws. With 1:37 left, the hosts never looked back. Howard got fouled on an emphatic layup off an offensive rebound and made his free throw with 52 seconds left to put Bruno up four. Blackmon iced the game by going 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the last 30 seconds. The final buzzer went off, and the hosts had outlasted their guests, 81-75.
The game was tight throughout, but Bruno excelled after halftime, outscoring Morgan State 51-41 thanks in large part to a shooting rate of 57 percent from the field. The trio of Spieth, Howard and Blackmon shot 10-for-14 in the second half to lead the way. Then Spieth did most of his damage, netting 12 points, five assists and zero turnovers, while Fuller scored all seven of his clutch points.
“I think we just started defending and took better shots,” Blackmon said. “When we watched the film of the game the next day, we saw that we just weren’t being patient enough on offense to work for the best possible shots. And in the final 12 minutes we did that”
On the flip side, Bruno will look to take better care of the ball. In this game, the team amassed a season-high 19 turnovers but was able to overcome that obstacle in part by causing 16 turnovers itself.
“I think we just have to focus in on the defensive end for 40 minutes,” Blackmon said. “We always do it in spurts and have our good moments, but we need to focus on that part of the game for a full 40 minutes.”
The Bears hope to carry this momentum into their next game against in-state rival Bryant at home Monday at 7 p.m.