Morgan overcomes adversity to top A&T Captain Watson injured, but Bears prevail, 80-70

February 23, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Morgan State basketball coach Chris Fuller must have been (( wondering what else could go wrong when, only seven minutes into the game with visiting North Carolina A&T, forward Chris Watson, his captain, dropped to the floor, holding his sprained right ankle.

Watson, who watched the rest of the game from the bench and was using crutches afterward, was just the latest misfortune for the Bears, who had lost five straight and had dropped into a last-place tie in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference before yesterday's 80-70 victory over the Aggies.

The Morgan players also were distraught over the death of popular cheerleader Sheronda Conaway, who died on campus Friday. The cause is still undetermined.

The Bears dedicated yesterday's game to the memory of Conaway, and played with unusual passion in upsetting the Aggies (13-9, 11-4) before a crowd of 1,100.

"It's been a strange season, but today they decided they were going to be men and play hard for 40 minutes," Fuller said.

Led by the outside shooting of junior guard Tremaine Byrd, who made nine of 13 shots including six of eight from three-point range in scoring 28 points, the Bears (7-17, 6-10) rolled to a 67-53 advantage with nine minutes left and then held off a late rally by the Aggies.

North Carolina A&T, which had routed Morgan, 84-63, in Greensboro on Jan. 11, used the offensive rebounding of 6-foot-10 senior Shernord Knowlin to trim the deficit to 71-66 with 4: 36 left.

"I've been telling my players all season that they have to play harder when they have a lead," Fuller said. "This time, they were determined not to give it up."

After holding the Aggies scoreless for the next two minutes, sophomore guard Rasheed Sparks gave the Bears some breathing room with a follow slam for a 73-66 lead.

The Aggies closed within five points two more times, the last at 75-70 on a short jumper by Marcus Williams with 46 seconds left. But a pair of free throws by Byrd put it out of reach.

Byrd has a classic shooting stroke, but is prone to going 0-for-9 from the field just as well as he can go 9-for-13. "We need him to play this way every game if we're going to be competitive in the tournament," Fuller said.

Sophomore point guard Angelo Herron scored only six points, but it was his decision-making on offense in the second half that keyed the Bears' decisive 18-6 run.

"We were having trouble running our offense in the first half against their traps and press," said Fuller, who benched Lorenzo Hutchinson in favor of Herron.

"Angelo has good bloodlines," the coach said. "I coached his brother, Reggie, in junior college."

With games remaining against South Carolina State and Howard, the Bears still could face a MEAC tournament play-in game.

"But I saw us do a lot of good things today," Fuller said. "We've had trouble focusing for 40 minutes all season, but sometimes, it just happens overnight."

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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