'No one can take it away'

morgan state

March 21, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -Morgan State wasn't allowing a trying loss to Oklahoma - and the ejection of one of its players - to diminish a memorable season in which the Bears advanced to the Division I NCAA tournament for the first time.

"These guys have made history," Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said after his team was routed, 82-54, on Thursday night by Oklahoma, the South Regional's No. 2 seed.

"No one can take it away from them. No one will do it ever again in terms of being the first program or team to go to NCAA tournament [from] Morgan State," Bozeman said.

Just three seasons ago, Morgan State went 4-26. This season, the Bears went 23-12, including defeating Maryland in the regular season and winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

"We did what we set out to do," senior forward Marquise Kately said. "We didn't get as far as we wanted, but, you know, we came a long ways and, you know, I'm just blessed just to experience this."

Bozeman, who just completed his third season at the school, is expected to soon begin contract negotiations that will determine whether he remains.

The coach, whose recruiting violations ended a previous tenure at California, said of the contract situation: "I'm not going to negotiate in the media. Obviously, I want to be back."

Interviewed last week, athletic director Floyd Kerr said the school was waiting for the season to end to begin contract talks.

Bozeman said the Bears have a "great foundation." It includes 6-foot-4 junior guard Reggie Holmes (St. Frances), 6-6 freshman forward Kevin Thompson (Walbrook), and 6-10 sophomore Rodney Stokes (Old Mill).

Bozeman said of Holmes, who scored 14 points against the Sooners: "It will be his team next year. He's going to work hard this summer, and he's going to be on fire next year coming back. He's going to be off the charts. He's going to lead these guys and raise the expectation level."

The Oklahoma game included a hard foul by redshirt freshman Ameer Ali that was shown repeatedly on tournament highlight shows.

Ali was ejected from the game after flipping Sooners star Blake Griffin over his shoulder.

"You don't want your players to get into any type of thing that would emotionally embarrass themselves or the university," Bozeman said. "I don't think he was trying to hurt him."

Griffin said he and Ali "just kind of got tangled up."

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