Morgan focuses on fight for third Rematch with A&T is all that matters COLLEGE BASKETBALL

February 22, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

For the players of both teams, the game will be the thing: Third-place Morgan State is just a half-game ahead of North Carolina A&T going into tonight's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest, and the outcome could decide which bracket each will play in during the conference tournament.

"It's a big game for us, and we're hoping the focus will be on the game," Morgan assistant coach Lynn Ramage said yesterday. "We hope the focus won't be on what happened in Greensboro."

What happened in Greensboro on Jan. 11 was a bench-clearing altercation that forced the suspension of the game because ejections left each team with just three players. Morgan eventually was declared the winner because it was leading at the time of the suspension.

Tonight's game will be the first between Morgan (8-15, 8-6 in the MEAC) and A&T (12-11, 7-6) since the fight.

"We know it's going to be a lot of media attention on this game," said Ramage, at Hill Field House yesterday preparing for tonight's game while coach Michael Holmes was out of town recruiting. "I guess people will be disappointed because it's not going to be what people expect. We're beyond that, and what happened then will not be a factor."

When the Bears and the Aggies played last month, it was a game that matched two struggling teams. Morgan was 0-9 and A&T, the preseason favorite to win the league, was 3-5.

Holmes and Aggies coach Don Corbett said that the frustration of the season may have contributed to the fight. Tempers first flared when Aggies reserve center Kevin Chamberlain was ejected after committing a flagrant foul with 2:43 left in the first half and his team trailing 32-29.

Less than a minute later, a fight broke out between A&T forward Thomas Garner and Morgan forward Michael Brewer. Both benches cleared and, after 30 minutes of discussion, the officials ejected all but three players on each team.

The officials considered finishing it as a three-on-three contest, but eventually suspended the game. MEAC commissioner Ken Free announced on Jan. 20 that the game would be replayed in an empty gymnasium, but a week later the Bears were awarded a victory by the league after an appeal by Morgan president Earl Richardson.

Tonight's game will be played before the Morgan home fans, and Ramage is confident that it will be played without incident.

"Anything brought on about this game will be from outside," Ramage said. "We're in a dogfight right now, and we're trying to finish second or third in the league by winning the last two games. To think about anything else for us would be a distraction."

Morgan is coming off a lackluster effort in Saturday's 82-67 loss at home to South Carolina State. The Bears, in second place behind Coppin for much of the season, were tied with South Carolina State going into Saturday's game. After improving to 7-2 in league play after a Feb. 1 win at Howard, the Bears have lost four of their past five league games.

The Aggies won at Howard on Saturday to pull within a half-game of the Bears.

"We just have to come out and play as hard as we can. We have a lot at stake, " Ramage said. "We didn't play well at all against South Carolina State.

"It's a big game, but it's just a normal game," Ramage added. "That's all that it will turn out to be."

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