Coppin nips Morgan, preserves home streak Welch's shot at :01 halts upset bid, 78-77

January 28, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

As usual with a Coppin State basketball game, there were streaks galore on the line last night.

The six victories in a row. The 35 consecutive wins at home. The 6-0 start in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The 21 straight regular-season conquests against MEAC opponents.

They were all there for the taking. And Morgan State almost took them.

Junior forward Reggie Welch took a pass from Allen Watson and scored off the glass with one second left to give the Eagles a 78-77 victory at the Coppin Center, denying Morgan an upset of gigantic proportions.

The Bears had taken their second lead, 77-76, on a three-pointer by freshman Jason Demory with six seconds left. Watson then drove down the court and pulled up for what looked like a short jumper before dishing off to Welch at the last instant. Welch was fouled on the play and missed the free throw, but time ran out.

"I was open and ready to shoot, but then I saw Reggie slashing to the basket," said Watson, who had 14 points and six assists. "That's my main thing, passing. I have no problem letting it go."

Coppin center Terquin Mott continued his assault on conference foes with 26 points, the sixth straight game that he's led the Eagles (10-7, 7-0) in scoring. Welch added 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Rasheed Sparks paced Morgan (4-13, 3-3) with 18 points, and Dwayne Holmes had 14.

Sparks had rebounded the second of two missed free throws by Scott Deas (13 points) and scored off the glass with 12 seconds left, cutting Morgan's deficit to 76-74. The Bears regained possession two seconds later on a jump ball, setting up Demory's basket and the frenzied finish.

"We're extremely disappointed, but there are some positives we can take out of here and hopefully build on," said Morgan coach Chris Fuller, whose team had won three of its past four. "I'm proud of the way the kids played. For us to be able to compete against a team like this shows we've made some progress. But we've got a long way to go."

The Bears caught fire after shooting 39 percent from the field in the first half, and a comfortable lead for Coppin began to dissolve. Morgan got within five points with 12:56 remaining before the Eagles went on a 10-3 run, highlighted by some nifty passing from Watson and Welch.

Again, Morgan fought back, taking advantage of Coppin's soft defense inside, lack of rebounding and inability to get back in transition. A steal and dunk by Sparks gave the Bears their first lead, 71-70, with three minutes left.

"You've got to give Coach Fuller and his players who fought the whole game credit. They never quit," said Eagles coach Fang Mitchell. "You've also got to applaud our guys for not quiting and pulling it out at the end when it looked bleak. But, we also have to recognize that, if this team is going to be successful, they're going to have to have a better defensive mentality."

The challenge facing Morgan State last night was daunting. The Bears had won only nine of the 36 games in this series, and just one of the past 14. And Coppin was eager to atone for what Mitchell considered a bad defensive effort at UMES on Thursday night, when the Eagles' attitude was questioned by the coach after a nine-point victory.

Defense hasn't been a problem for the Bears; it's been their only hope. When you have just one player (Paul Grant) averaging in double figures in scoring, and it's less than 11 points a game, stopping the other team takes on greater urgency.

Stopping Mott in the first half would have taken a miracle. He began the game by making two free throws and following a miss by Welch. By halftime, he had faked sophomore Ira Crawley into the air at the top of the key and blown past for the dunk, jammed twice more off lobs from Welch, muscled underneath for a basket, and helped Coppin to a 40-30 lead with 14 points.

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