NORFOLK, Va. -- When Morgan State's basketball players look back on their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference quarterfinal game against Florida A&M;, they'll probably remember it as the one that got away.
The Bears, seemingly in control much of the game, could only watch in dismay down the stretch as the Rattlers paraded to the foul line and came away with a 90-87 victory yesterday at The Scope.
The Rattlers (10-17), MEAC tournament champions in 1991 and finalists a year ago, will meet top-seeded Coppin State in the semifinals today at 5 p.m. Florida A&M; upset Coppin State in the quarterfinals during its 1991 run to the title.
Morgan State finishes 9-17.
"This really hurts," said Morgan State guard Chico Langston, who scored a game-high 27 points. "You practice all year, play all these games, and then you get to the tournament and lose in the first round. It feels like it's all for nothing."
The Bears had their chances, though. Morgan State took a four-point halftime lead and built it to 12 with a little more than 13 minutes to play. But Florida A&M; forward Delon Turner scored six points in a 10-0 run to close within two.
Langston hit two free throws and a three-pointer as the Bears appeared to regain control. But the Rattlers responded again, as a fast-break dunk by Florida A&M;'s Delwyn Jackson ignited an 8-2 run.
Morgan State went for the kill one final time when a three-pointer by Obadiah Johnson put the Eagles ahead 66-61 at the 7:59 mark.
But the Rattlers responded by taking control of the game, capping another 8-2 run with Jackson's layup to take the lead for good with 5:47 remaining at 69-68.
The Bears, down by as many as five late in the game, cut the deficit to one on two occasions. But the aggressiveness that helped them early proved to be their undoing. Morgan State's foul trouble allowed the Rattlers to hold on despite making one field goal in the final three minutes, a period during which the Rattlers hit 11 of 14 from the line.
The teams combined for 63 fouls. But the Bears' 34 fouls resulted in five players -- including starting forwards Malik White (15 points) and Jarrad Smith and starting center Charles Feagin (10) -- fouling out.
"You work hard on offense, then you come down and work hard on defense and they wind up in the one-and-one," Morgan coach Michael Holmes said. "It doesn't make sense."