Morgan collapses down stretch in 66-63 setback

Annapolis alum Diggs aids Fla. A&M's rally in return

February 13, 2000|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

If the Florida A&M basketball team is on the verge of life support, where does Morgan State stand after coming unglued in the final minutes yesterday and losing a 66-63 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference decision at Hill Field House?

Morgan coach Chris Fuller didn't hang around to answer that question. But he could have pulled out a tape-recording of his post-game interview two weeks ago after a 68-65 setback to North Carolina A&T and it would have told the story.

Morgan did little right in the final 8: 12 after senior guard Jimmy Fields gave his teammates hope for a second straight victory with a three-point jumper on a fast break, pushing the Bears (4-8, 4-18) ahead, 54-49.

But in the final crucial minutes, the Bears missed six important free throws, committed costly fouls, made poor decisions on passes and didn't block out on critical rebounds.

But those mistakes weren't as surprising as when the usually sure-handed Fields drove for what was hoped to be a tying basket with the clock ticking below 10 seconds and the Rattlers leading 65-63.

An intense Fields, known for his late-game heroics, was headed for the right baseline when the ball bounced off his leg and out of bounds with 8.2 seconds left. That brought near total silence and disbelief in the stands, but Florida A&M's Germaine "Boo" Diggs had a ready explanation.

"It was my tough defense," said Diggs, who stalked Fields all over the court in the final minutes of the game. "I love to play good `D' and I think Jimmy was pressing and trying to do too much."

Diggs, a former Annapolis High star, also knocked a Fields pass out of bounds with 1.3 seconds left, helping to preserve a 66-63 lead that the Rattlers (4-8, 5-18) had gained on a Kendric Green free throw with 6.6 seconds remaining.

The two big defensive plays by Diggs came after he had leaped into the lane for a crucial follow shot off a missed free throw with 44 seconds remaining to give Florida A&M a 63-61 lead it would never relinquish. It was a happy ending for Diggs in front of his home-area fans after he had played only seven minutes in the first half and didn't score a point.

All eight of Diggs' points came in the second half, and he added six rebounds and two steals on the day. Junior guard Morris Scott led the winners with 22 points and eight steals.

Fields, who played the final 11: 45 of the game with four fouls, topped Morgan with 17 points.

Morgan 6-11 center Michael Canady fouled out with 45.4 seconds left. His loss was costly for the Bears as it opened the way for Diggs to crash the boards for the big follow shot for the 63-61 lead.

"We're trying to make sure we're not on life support," Florida A&M coach Mickey Clayton said. "We know we're on oxygen."

Pub Date: 2/13/00

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