The South Carolina State Bulldogs chances of snapping an 22-game conference losing streak fell short Wednesday, as the Hampton held on to a 64-60 victory Wednesday at Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
"When it rain it pours, nothing else left to say," said head coach Tim Carter. "It's hard when you have to juggle a lineup because of injuries."
Junior forward Matthew Hezekiah led the Bulldogs with a game-high 18 points, while freshman Darryl Palmer grabbed nine rebounds and 14 points in the loss. Senior Khalif Toombs after reaching his 1,000th career-scoring mark against Savannah St., played 38 minutes while chipping in 13 points and dishing out a game-high nine assists.
Carter stated, "Toombs is a warrior and has a heart of a champion whenever he hits the court. He played all but two minutes and never complained."
The Bulldogs controlled the game early on jumping out to a nine point lead, 16-7, off a three-pointer by Palmer at the 13:49 mark. A layup by junior guard Ramon Mercado cut the lead to one, 20-19 with 5:31 left.
Toombs knocked down three free-throws after being fouled while attempting a three-pointer, to extend SC State's lead to six, 30-24 with 0:49 seconds remaining in the half. A jumper by red-shirt freshman Dwight Meikle cut the lead to four, 30-26 with 0:29 seconds left. Junior forward Chasen Campbell nailed a three-pointer with 0:09 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a seven point lead, 33-26 at halftime.
The second-half was a battle throughout with Hampton jumping out to its biggest lead of the game five, 50-45 off a layup by junior guard/forward Du'Vaughn Maxwell at the 8:23 mark. Hezekiah's jumper pulled the Bulldogs within one, 52-51 with 6:41 remaining.
Hampton seemed to have complete control down the stretch after the Pirates pulled ahead by five, 58-53 off a layup by senior center Emmanuel Okoroba followed by a jumper by Mercado with 4:19 left in regulation. Freshman guard Phillip Henry scoring his first points as a Bulldog nailed a three-pointer to take the lead 60-58 with 2:40 remaining.
Free-throws seemed to be the deciding factor down the stretch as Hampton got a pair of free-throws from Okoroba and freshman guard Ke'Ron Brown 60-62 with 1:33 remaining in the game. SC State came up short when freshman guard Patrick Myers jumped rimmed out with 0:06 seconds left.
Hampton held 64-60 to give the Bulldogs their 13th straight loss this season, while improving to 6-13 overall 3-3 in the MEAC. The Pirates were led by Ramon Mercado with a team-high 14 points, while teammate Dwight Meikle added 13 points and seven rebounds in the win.
South Carolina State falls to 4-16 overall, 0-7 in the league. Sophomore guard Devin Joint grabbed nine rebounds in the losing effort. The Bulldogs were out-rebounded 43-35, while shooting 34.5% from the field.
"I thought we battle hard down the stretch and we didn't back down when thing got tough," said Carter. "At one point we had three freshmen on the floor and we just couldn't seem to get over that hump."
South Carolina State will have a few days off before returning to action on Monday, Feb.4, when they travel to the nation's capital to take on the Howard Bison in an pivotal Mid-Eastern Athletic showdown at Burr Gymnasium. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m., immediately following the women's contest.