Morgan can't overcome slow start in 69-64 loss

Bears' backcourt ejected after first-half scuffle

February 15, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Morgan State lost to Bethune-Cookman last night, 69-64, its late rally not enough to overcome a poor start in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference basketball game.

Freddie Cole scored 18 points for the Wildcats (11-11, 10-3), who picked up their fifth win in the past six contests and remained in second place in the conference.

For Morgan State (4-19, 4-9), not much was different from any other night except the absence of Jimmy Fields and Ronnie Van Hook, ejected along with Bethune's Larry Gilbert after a first-half scuffle.

Forced to soldier on without their top two backcourt scoring threats, the Bears got a game-high 19 points from Cory McNeill, who led a comeback from a 31-17 halftime deficit.

Morgan State went on a 13-4 run at the beginning of the second half, cutting the Wildcats' lead to 35-30 with 13: 53 left in the game.

But with baskets from Cole and Delvin Thomas, Bethune-Cookman extended its lead to 10 points in little more than a minute, as it did any time Morgan State got close.

With 7: 50 left in the game, the Bears got as close as they would come when McNeill hit a jumper to make the score 46-43. But Bethune reserve guard Antoine Toliver scored eight of his team's next 12 points for a 58-49 lead with 4: 26 left.

Morgan State coach Chris Fuller said he was pleased with his team's effort in the second half, which produced 56 percent shooting.

"We played with some intensity," Fuller said. "We still had a chance at the end; if there's anything I can hang my hat on, it's that the guys didn't quit."

The Bears -- who shot 21 percent in the first half -- fell behind 22-8 over the first 14 minutes and lost Fields and Van Hook at the 6: 36 mark after the pair retaliated against what Fields said were serial elbows from Gilbert.

The rest of the team responded with stronger effort and four field goals the rest of the half, twice as many as it hit in the time before the fight.

"If there's anything that's left, there has to be some pride," McNeill said. "Once we figured that Jimmy wasn't coming back, they were looking to me to take control. I saw the opportunity and took it."

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