Feeling bounceless, Eagles wind up getting bounced

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

Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell looked at the loss philosophically.

"Some days, it's not meant for your team to win. Today was one of those days," Mitchell said, after his top-seeded Eagles were stunned by eighth-seeded Morgan State, 61-60, in the quarterfinals of the MEAC tournament.

The Eagles will remember yesterday as the day their dream season took a nightmarish turn. They entered the tournament with a 35-game winning streak against the league and with their eyes trained on a second straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. Now, the best the Eagles can hope for is a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.

"This was not the time to lose. This is the time you get into the

field of 64. This is tough," said Sidney Goodman, who had the most frustrating day of all the Eagles. He did not make a basket in eight attempts and typified Coppin State's shooting woes. The Eagles made 19 of 53 attempts (35.8 percent).

"You've got to give Morgan credit," Goodman added. "They came out with heart, they came out with intensity, they played good defense and they stayed poised down the stretch. Defensive breakdowns cost us the game. We made critical mistakes at the end that really cost us."

Morgan State, playing like the improved team it is, sent the Eagles a message early. The Bears led by as much as 17-10, then traded baskets with the Eagles for the most of the half and held a 35-33 halftime lead. Their confidence boosted, the Bears hung tough with Coppin State.

"We didn't have that bounce we usually have when we walked off at halftime," said Stephen Stewart, whose season ended with him standing wide open on the foul line, screaming for the ball. Instead, Keith Carmichael's cross-court pass went through Kyle Locke's hands and out of bounds, as Coppin State's final possession ended with a turnover.

"Morgan played a lot better than we did. They made some nice shots, and they didn't turn the ball over much down the stretch," Stewart said. "They did things they didn't do during the season."

But the Bears did something they have done in past postseasons. Two years ago, the Bears were seeded seventh in the MEAC tournament and upset second-seeded Delaware State before falling in the semifinals. Yesterday, the Bears caught a Coppin State team that hadn't played in a close game in nearly two months.

"A lot of people don't realize we won the conference on Feb. 17, and it's tough to keep your focus sometimes," said Mitchell, who said he was worried about playing Morgan State on its home floor.

"When you have a rivalry like ours, we know we have to play well here just to win a regular-season game. Hats off to Morgan. They wanted it more. For whatever reason, we didn't keep the composure we normally have. But that doesn't take anything away from the type of young people we have and how proud I

am of them."

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