Morgan St. wins thriller over Mason

January 03, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

FAIRFAX, VA — FAIRFAX, Va. -- George Mason coach Paul Westhead's celebrated run-and-gun offense turned to crawl-and-stall in the second half yesterday when Morgan State, which trailed by as many as 23 points in the first half, staged a stunning rally to win, 85-82.

Morgan, which had lost seven of its first eight games and was routed by New Mexico State, 97-56, in Las Cruces on New Year's Eve, spent almost all of New Year's Day flying back to Baltimore.

"A lot of my guys were yawning in the dressing room before today's game," said Morgan coach Michael Holmes. "I had to give them a wake-up call."

The Bears appeared a step slow in falling behind 45-22 in the first 15 minutes. But they surprisingly seemed to have the fresher legs in the second half, especially sophomore forward Gerald Jordan, who registered career highs of 31 points and 22 rebounds.

Jordan, an agile 6-foot-11 Philadelphia native who has sat out the past two years at Morgan because of academic problems, was almost a one-man show in triggering the Bears' comeback. His 22 rebounds eclipsed former Navy star David Robinson's record of 20 by a visiting player at the Patriot Center, set in 1986.

Jordan scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half when Morgan outscored George Mason 29-7 in the first 10 minutes to forge ahead 65-60 while the crowd of 1,868 sat in stunned disbelief. "I really didn't have a good feeling at halftime," said Westhead, whose frantic "Paul Ball" style gained national attention when he led Loyola Marymount into the NCAA Final Eight in 1990.

"We weren't able to maintain our press, we got caught up in a half-court game, and we were missing too many free throws [4-for-12]."

Westhead's worst fears were realized. George Mason, averaging points, suffered through a five-minute stretch in the second half without scoring when Morgan moved ahead 65-60.

But the Patriots (5-5) managed to regroup and tie the game at 80 on freshman Curtis McCants' baseline drive with 1:23 remaining. But Jordan answered with a spin move in the lane, and sophomore Kevin Young, who did not join the Morgan squad until Dec. 28 because of a lack of credits, added a free throw for an 83-80 lead with 26 seconds left.

George Mason guard Donald Ross (23 points, nine rebounds) then attempted a tying three-pointer. He missed, but Khyl Horton converted the offensive rebound to make it 83-82.

The Patriots then fouled Young in the backcourt, and the guard from Potomac made two free throws with nine seconds to play.

Young swiped the inbounds pass and immediately was fouled. This time he missed both free throws, but Jordan rebounded the last miss and held on to the final buzzer.

"We knew he [Jordan] could score, but we didn't think he was such a tenacious rebounder," said Westhead.

Asked why he left Philadelphia to play at Morgan, Jordan said, "I had offers from La Salle and Temple, but they backed off when I didn't make 700 on the SATs. I could have gone to a junior college, but Coach Holmes has stuck with me for two years."

Finding Jordan unstoppable was only one of the reasons Westhead could uncover for his team's collapse.

"I'm not a stats person, but you can't overlook the fact that we had 35 turnovers," he said. "And that's not a true figure, because when you get fouled on a three-on-one fast break, you have to make your free throws. And we missed 14 [actually 18] from the line."

Asked if his team could slip any farther, Westhead smiled weakly and said, "Wait until Tuesday when we have to play Louisville on the road."

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