No. 8 Bears stun top-seeded Eagles in MEAC, 61-60 Navy in, Coppin out, Morgan carries on

March 12, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

Chico Langston promised it would happen. Minutes after Morgan State edged Florida A&M Thursday night in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament's play-in game, Langston recalled a loss against Coppin State two years ago.

"I remember [Coppin State point guard] Sidney Goodman telling me that he liked my game a lot, but that we could never beat them," Langston said. "It's been two years, and we've lost to them four straight times. Tomorrow, I'm going to make him regret those words."

Yesterday, before a shocked crowd in the MEAC quarterfinals at Morgan's Hill Field House, Langston fulfilled his prophecy.

He made a twisting, fadeaway jump shot in the lane to tie the score at 58 with 2:26 to play. And with Morgan State trailing by two points and 28 seconds remaining, Langston made a three-point shot to give the Bears a stunning, 61-60 victory over the heavily favored Eagles.

It marked the first time that a top-seeded team has fallen to an eighth seed in the 23-year history of the MEAC tournament. It also meant the end of Coppin State's 35-game winning streak against MEAC opponents, and it knocked the Eagles (22-8) out of the NCAA tournament picture. The MEAC tournament winner will receive an automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA field.

"I've played in some pretty big games, but I don't think any of them meant as much as this one," said Langston, who scored a game-high 17 points, added a game-high seven assists, and made all three of his three-point attempts. "Last night [Thursday], I talked to every one of the guys about believing we could do it. It started with me. I never had a doubt that we were going to win.

"This is a big win, something we needed to put us over the hump," he said. "But it's not over. We've still got two strong games we've got to play."

Morgan State (8-20) has not played like an eighth seed lately. The Bears won three of their last five regular-season games, with one of those losses coming in overtime against Delaware State. Then, they withstood a Florida A&M rally to get to the quarterfinals. The Bears play South Carolina State today at 7:30 p.m. in the semifinals.

But the Bears can't play much better than they did yesterday. Although they had 23 turnovers and nearly let the game slip away in the second half, they outplayed the Eagles on defense, outworked them on the boards, and outshot them all game.

In the first half, when Morgan State set the tone by leading most of the time en route to a 35-33 halftime lead, the Bears made 57.7 percent of their shots. And in crunch time, when Coppin State was on the verge of taking control, the Bears seemingly made every clutch shot and won with Coppin-like poise.

Coppin State, on the other hand, showed uncharacteristic jitters. The Eagles had 11 first-half turnovers and shot only 35.8 percent -- including 28.6 percent in the second half -- with Goodman suffering the most. He lost the head-to-head battle with Langston, finishing with nine points, all at the foul line. Goodman was 0-for-8 from the field.

Surprisingly, the Eagles panicked with the outcome on the line. After Langston's go-ahead shot, Coppin State failed to call a timeout, even though coach Fang Mitchell screamed for one. Instead, guard Keith Carmichael (14 points) rushed and missed a 15-foot jumper. Bears forward Gerald Jordan (eight points, seven rebounds) grabbed the rebound, got fouled, then missed the front end of a one-and-one.

The Eagles rebounded, got down the floor quickly, then saw their season slip away when Carmichael's cross-court pass went through Kyle Locke's hands on the baseline and out of bounds. Carmichael then slapped Morgan State's in-bound pass away as time expired.

"I've seen something in this team during the last three weeks -- mental discipline," Morgan State coach Michael Holmes said. "I feel good about the fact that we were mentally prepared today. I felt good as soon as we walked on the court.

"I think it's the biggest win ever for Morgan State University. And I have mixed emotions about it, because Fang does such a great job and his players have class. It's a great win for us."

"Mike Holmes had a great game plan, and they did a great job with it," Mitchell said. "What really impressed me was the way they hit their shots when they needed to. You see a team that refuses to fold, and you have to like that."

The Bears showed in the first half they would not be pushovers. In the second half, they stared down the Eagles.

Twice, Coppin State moved out to five-point leads, the final time on a layup by Stephen Stewart (16 points, nine rebounds, five assists) that made it 50-45 with 8:41 left.

Morgan State kept countering with big shots. Brandon Battle (11 points) made consecutive three-pointers to keep the Bears close midway through the half. A fall-away 18-footer by Terry Sellers (11 points) cut the Eagles' lead to 52-51. Then, Sellers barely beat the shot clock by making a three-pointer with 3:10 left to tie the score at 56.

A5 They were merely warm-ups for Langston's heroics.

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