Before Wednesday’s home-stand finale against Hampton, South Carolina State recognized senior point guard Khalif Toombs’ career milestone.
The Atlantic City, N.J., native earned a place in school history in surpassing the 1,000-point mark. Once the game started, however, Toombs was more focused on helping his teammates earn their own elusive personal milestone – a first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory.
Despite playing all but two minutes and contributing 13 points and nine assists, Toombs was not enough to curtail the Bulldogs’ ongoing run of futility. The 64-60 loss to the Pirates was S.C. State’s school-record 23rd consecutive MEAC loss, 13 coming in succession at the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
It also put the Bulldogs (4-17, 0-7) within a loss Monday at Howard University of matching the school record of 14 straight losses overall set last year.
“They’re no moral victories,” S.C. State coach Tim Carter said. “We played 40 minutes and the great thing about Khalif Toombs is that he’s a warrior. He played every minute except for (2) and never asked to come out. I can’t take him out because (guard Louis Adams) is not here. He’s got a big heart. I’m going to miss him.”
Joining Adams (high ankle sprain) and Shaquiell Mitchell (concussion) on S.C. State’s injury list was Devin Joint who left the game in the second half after reaggravating a knee. The depleted bench was outscored 24-13 by the Pirates and outrebounded 16-4.
Nevertheless, both Toombs and Carter still took away positives from the latest defeat such as the play of the newcomers like freshman Darryl Palmer, who finished with 14 points and shared team-high rebounding honors with Joint with nine boards.
“It’s a good accomplishment for a person to get 1,000 points, but it would feel so much better if we could get over the hump and get that one win,” Toombs said. “We’re close. We’re close. Once we get that one win, we’ll be fine.”
“I thought we battled and it will come,” Carter said. “It will come.”
The game started in promising fashion for S.C. State as it jumped out to a 6-1 lead on a 3-pointer by Toombs and 3-point play from Matthew Hezekiah, who finished with a game-high 18 points. It took less than a minute for Hampton’s Deron Powers to erase the deficit following two straight turnovers by the Bulldogs.
Hezekiah answered by scoring six points during a 10-1 run which gave S.C. State its biggest lead at 16-7. The Bulldogs were unable to sustain their offensive flow and the Pirates capitalized by surging back to cut the lead to 20-19.
Ramon Mercado led the Pirates (6-13, 3-3) with 14 points and Dwight Meikle had 13. The Pirates also controlled the paint in outrebounding S.C. State 43-35, resulting in 11 second-chance points.
A dunk by Luka Radovic off a fastbreak regained the lead for S.C. State.
On the ensuing possession, Hampton’s Du’Vaughn Maxwell received a technical foul after getting into a shoving match with Toombs and Radovic while wrestling over a loose ball.
With five seconds left, Chasen Campbell’s 3-pointer gave S.C. State a 33-29 halftime advantage. A sluggish offensive start to the second half allowed Hampton to turn the deficit into a five-point lead with nine minutes left.
Back-to-back baskets by Hezekiah brought the Bulldogs to within a point at 52-51 at the 6:33 mark. After Hezekiah sat with his fourth personal foul with 5:14 left, S. C. State initially struggled to find another offensive option and fell behind again by five points.
The Bulldogs erupted for eight unanswered points, capped by a 3-pointer from freshman guard Phillip Henry to take a 60-58 lead. S.C. State’s lead was short-lived after four straight free throws by Hampton.
S.C. State had a chance to tie with 32.6 seconds left, but Hezekiah missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the free-throw line. It snapped a streak of 13 straight made free throws by the Bulldogs.
Hampton transitioned the basketball following the miss upcourt, but failed to convert a short jumper which was rebounded by the Bulldogs.
Another game-tying opportunity came up empty as freshman Patrick Myers’ baseline jumper caromed off the rim and was rebounded with 2.9 seconds left by the Pirates’ Emmanuel Okoroba. He was fouled and made 1-2 free throws.
S.C. State’s final possession ended when Myers’ inbounds pass was intercepted downcourt by Hampton’s Ke’Ron Brown. He was fouled with .09 seconds left and closed out the scoring with a free throw.
“It’s frustrating, but I’ve got confidence in my guys,” Toombs said. “They work hard every day and when you work hard, you’re going to be rewarded.”
HAMPTON 64, SC STATE 60
Okoroba 3-7 3-6 9, Maxwell 1-6 1-2 3, Powers 2-5 0-0 5, Austin 2-5 1-2 6, Mercado 6-12 0-0 14, Williams 1-6 0-1 3, Brown 2-3 5-8 9, Meikle 6-7 0-0 13, Price 1-3 0-0 2, Adams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-54 10-19 64.
SC STATE (4-16)
Joint 1-8 0-0 2, Palmer 5-12 2-3 14, Hezekiah 7-10 4-6 18, Toombs 2-6 8-10 13, Myers 0-4 0-0 0, Henry 1-1 0-0 3, Campbell 1-5 0-0 3, Youmans 0-0 0-0 0, Linton 0-1 0-0 0, Black 1-6 0-0 3, Radovic 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 20-58 14-19 60.
Halftime—SC State 33-29. 3-Point Goals—Hampton 6-16 (Mercado 2-6, Austin 1-1, Meikle 1-1, Powers 1-2, Williams 1-5, Price 0-1), SC State 6-15 (Palmer 2-3, Henry 1-1, Campbell 1-2, Toombs 1-3, Black 1-4, Myers 0-1, Joint 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Hampton 43 (Okoroba 9), SC State 35 (Joint, Palmer 9). Assists—Hampton 8 (Mercado, Powers 3), SC State 15 (Toombs 9). Total Fouls—Hampton 20, SC State 19. A—776.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or by calling 803-533-5547. For more information about S.C. State athletics, read Grant’s blog “Following the Bulldogs” at thebulldogzone.com. Follow Grant on Twitter@TandDSports.