Hornets pull road upset vs. Morgan 56-45 for 4th straight win

BALTIMORE — This Delaware State men’s basketball team is no longer just Devin Morgan and DeAndre Haywood.

Morgan was the Hornets’ top scorer with 18 points, but they needed a balanced effort to upset Morgan State 56-45 on the road Saturday afternoon in a MidEastern Athletic Conference matchup.

Delaware State has won its last four games, including three in a row on the road, to move to 6-6 in conference play.

Early in the season, Morgan and Haywood would typically play close to all 40 minutes a game and account for most of the scoring. On Saturday, Haywood only played 17 minutes as coach Keith Walker elected to stick with a hot lineup in the second half when Haywood was on the bench,

Nine different Hornets scored as they shot 40-percent from the floor as a team.

“I think it’s just a confidence thing,” Morgan said. “Early in the season everyone was just trying to figure out their role. In practice every day we switch the lineups and motivate each other. Now that the end of the season is coming, you’re starting to see the maturity of each player.”

“They’re all stepping in and making contributions,” Walker said. “Each guy gives us a different option. At this point in the season you want to have all guns blazing.”

Artem Tavakalyn was the only other Hornet in double-figures with 10 points. He also was second on the team with seven rebounds, all of which came in the second half.

The sophomore from Russia, who has entered the starting lineup in recent weeks, went 6-of-7 from the free throw line including three pivotal ones in the final minutes.

“I had a great summer overseas so I came back with a lot of confidence,” Tavakalyn said. “Coach Walker gave me an opportunity in the middle of the season with the starting five. I got comfortable in the rotation.”

Kavon Waller added nine points while Polytech High product Devaughn Mallory netted all six of his points in the second half.

The Hornets trailed 31-22 in the second half before a 9-0 run was capped off by Mallory’s dunk with 13:45 left. Waller hit three free throws to put DelState ahead for good with 11:11 remaining.

Morgan State (7-3 MEAC) closed within two points at 41-39 before Tavakalyn forced a steal in the frontcourt. The ball bounced to freshman Kobe Gantz who threw it behind his back to Tavakalyn for a layup and a foul.

Tavakalyn converted the resulting free throw and Morgan netted a three on the following possession for a 47-39 advantage. The Bears could only close within four points the rest of the way and were held scoreless for the final 2:57.

“To be able to close this game out shows the growth of our team,” Morgan said.

The four-game winning streak comes after Delaware State won its first two games of the conference season but then dropped six in a row. Walker noted Mallory, who has reentered the starting lineup, missed five of those six contests.

“I don’t like using a lot of excuses,” Walker said. “I really don’t. But we had guys out and that impacted us. Mallory is a starter and one of our more consistent players and he was out so that hurt us for those games.”

The Hornets overcame 14 first half turnovers and 18 offensive rebounds by Morgan State in the game.

“We called a timeout and instructed the guys we had to take care of the basketball and do a better job of execution,” Walker said.“It helped us once they went man because we’re more used to teams playing man against us. That helped us just a little bit. But the biggest thing was we only had five or six turnovers in the second half.”

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