BALTIMORE - Speed and quickness won out over height and strength.
During a pivotal point in Saturday's MEAC men's basketball matchup, North Carolina A&T used a smaller lineup to make the bigger Morgan State Bears so uncomfortable at home, they surrendered a 62-61 decision to the Aggies at Hill Field House.
It was the Aggies (8-12, 3-2) second straight road win after going without one over their first 11 games of the season. Junior R.J. Buck came off the bench to lead A&T with 15. Senior Marc Hill and junior Adrian Powell had 11 points apiece with Powell adding nine rebounds.
Morgan State missed two layups over the final 12 seconds of the game to secure the win for A&T.
"I like my team. I truly do because you don't know who is going to lead us from game to game," said Eaves. "We're having fun right now because I have a group of kids who are a delight to be around. They have great parents, I don't have any trouble out of them and they're doing what I ask of them."
With the Aggies trailing by five with seven minutes remaining in the second half, Eaves asked 6-foot-3 guard Jared Williams to replace 6-5 forward Lawrence Smith. Williams joined Marc Hill, Adrian Powell, Jeremy Underwood and Buck on the floor, which meant the Aggies had four players in the game 6-3 or smaller with Powell being the tallest at 6-6.
Meanwhile, the Bears lineup featured 7-2 Ian Chiles and 6-9 Kevin Thompson. MSU never got to take advantage of the height discrepancy. Eaves used his smaller lineup to pressure a Bears lineup that had fewer ball handlers. The Aggies came away with back-to-back steals and Powell scored on two consecutive layups to cut Morgan State's lead to 50-49.
"We've been waiting for that to happen all season long," said Eaves. "When it finally did, I thought that turned the game around. My team played with a lot of confidence after that."
The move erased what was once a 12-point Morgan State lead ten minutes earlier. The Aggies finally took the lead at the 5:32 mark of the second half when senior guard Nic Simpson hit one of two free throws. It was the Aggies first lead since it was 11-10 with 13:32 remaining in the first half. MSU erased that advantage in the first half by going on a 14-0 run to take control of the game.
"Tonight our kids grew up," said Eaves. "They went after the ball, they attacked them and they handled the physical play in the paint. We kept challenging them, and got it out on the break in the second half and started to play our way. They did a great job of fighting to get back into the game."
A&T still trailed 61-58 with 1:15 remaining. Hill found Simpson coming off of a screen for a three. Simpson's 3-pointer rimmed out. But Austin Witter, the Aggies leading rebounder, kept the ball alive. He scored on his second tip-in to cut the lead to one.
After Simpson took a charge from an out-of-control Justin Black coming down the lane, the Aggies capitalized as Hill whipped a pass inside to Powell. Powell arched the ball over the taller MSU defenders and watched it bounce in for a 62-61 lead with 15 seconds remaining.
"I thought Marc Hill did as good a job as I have seen him do distributing the basketball," said Eaves.
On MSU's ensuing possession, Blake Bozeman got into the lane and launched a floater that hit off the back rim. MSU got a second opportunity, but Chiles' pointblank look at the rim wasn't enough as his shot bounced off to give A&T the win.
"I wanted them to take a jump shot," said Eaves. "I would have rather loss with them hitting a jumper versus being up one and they hit a layup. I was proud of the way my guys fought for that ball when it came off both times."
DeWayne Jackson led MSU with 20 points and seven rebounds. The Aggies outrebounded the Bears 42-39.
"When we can come to Morgan State against seven foot and 6-10 and outrebound them, that's huge for my team."
The Aggies will be in search of their third straight road win and their fourth straight win overall when they face Coppin State Monday night at 7 on ESPNU. Coppin State will be coming off of a 20-point win over N.C. Central.
The Aggies won back-to-back road games for the first since Feb. 14 and 16, 2009 when they beat Maryland Eastern Shore and Delaware State in consecutive road games...The Aggies won at Morgan State for the first time since doing it on Feb. 20, 2006 (56-52)...It was their first time beating the Bears at Hill Field House with Todd Bozeman as the head coach... North Carolina A&T outrebounded Morgan State 42-39...The Aggies are 7-1 when they outrebound their opponents...Marc Hill scored in double figures for the sixth straight game...Nic Simpson was 1-for-2 at the free throw line...He leads the MEAC in FT percentage...