Morgan State nearly overcame a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit, only to have the potential game-winning shot ruled no basket, as host North Carolina Central held on for a 66-65 victory on Monday evening at McDougald-McLendon Arena.
The loss ended Morgan State’s (7-15, 2-5 MEAC) seven-game winning streak over the Eagles. It was just the second loss to NCCU (11-11, 5-2 MEAC) in the last 12 meetings, as the Lady Bears now lead the series 17-6.
With 2.1 seconds remaining, Gabrielle Johnson received the inbound pass, drove to the basket, and hit what appeared to be the game-winning layup at the buzzer. Following several minutes of the officials reviewing the replay on the monitor, they ruled that Johnson’s shot was not released in time, sending heartbreak to Morgan State.
Morgan State held a six-point advantage (30-24) after a layup by Anjanae Mueck with 5:10 left in the second period. That would be the final points of the period for Morgan, as the Eagles held the visitors scoreless while ending the quarter with a 15-0 run to take a 39-30 lead at the break.
NCCU took its largest lead of the contest at 13 points when Morgan Callahan knocked down a free throw with 7:15 remaining in the game to put the Eagles ahead 62-49.
Morgan State would turn up its defensive intensity and responded with a 16-3 run over the next seven minutes to even the score, capped off by two free throws by Amari Smith with 16 seconds remaining.
NCCU then took a 66-65 lead when Aniya Finger hit the second of two free throws with 14 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, the Lady Bears had two chances at layups but missed them both. Morgan State was given the ball with 2.1 seconds remaining, thus setting the stage for Johnson’s final shot.
The Eagles were led by Callahan, who scored a game-high 17 points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds to record a double-double. Finger came off the bench to score 15 on 7-of-11 shooting and had eight rebounds, while Kyla Bryant finished with 12 points. Kimeira Burks and Tippy Robertson each tallied 10 points. Robertson dished out a game-high eight assists.
Mueck came off the bench to score a season-high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and added seven rebounds, two steals, and a block to lead Morgan State. Smith also scored 15 points and had six rebounds and a block. Jael Butler finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, and had a block and a steal before fouling out.