As the clock reached zero, the celebration was on. One by one the Morgan State starters went airborne, eventually winding up on the press table. On the other side of the court, Bears coach Chris Fuller walked off, openly weeping.
In recent years Morgan has come close to beating Coppin, but the Bears had not recorded a win over the Eagles since the first round of the 1994 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament. Morgan's eight-game losing streak to Coppin came to an end last night in a 67-66 overtime thriller before an overflowing crowd of 3,211 at the Coppin Center.
Morgan improved to 2-0 in the MEAC (3-5 overall) as Coppin (1-7 overall) dropped its conference opener.
"We wanted this game extremely bad, and right now I'm just really emotional about it," said Fuller, taking a deep breath during the post-game news conference. "I don't know if I felt this good in a long, long time."
Credit that good feeling to Morgan guard Jimmy Fields, who hit the game-winning shot on a short jumper in the lane with three seconds left. After a first half in which he had more turnovers (five) than points (four), Fields put on shooting clinic in the second half when he scored 19 points and connected on five three-pointers.
"I wasn't under control in the first half, and in the second half I just wanted to calm down," said Fields, who didn't have a turnover after halftime. "In the second half, I just wanted to calm down. Once I hit the first [three-pointer], I felt fine."
During one stretch Field connected on six straight shots, including those five three-pointers -- several from well beyond the three-point arc.
"Jimmy is capable of exploding on any given day," said Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell after the loss. "When he's in a zone, he's in a zone and he's tough to defend. He beat us on dribble penetration all night."
Fields helped Morgan increase its second-half lead by as many as seven, and the Bears appeared to have the game under control.
But Coppin, despite having no inside offense all game (just five of Coppin's 20 field goals came from in the paint), fought back. And it appeared the Eagles were in position to steal the game after Fred Warrick (28 points) tipped in his own miss to give Coppin a 60-58 lead with 41 seconds left.
But a jumper in the lane by Morgan reserve guard Ronny Van Hook with 17 seconds left tied the score at 60 and set up the overtime.
"Ronny Van Hook gave us a tremendous lift," Fuller said. "We've been looking for offense from him."
In the overtime Coppin tied the game on two free throws by
Tyran Watkins with 22 seconds left. Morgan ran a spread offense on its last possession, with the ball in the hands of the hot-shooting Fields.
Slightly off balance and over outstretched arms, Fields hit the shot.
"The last shot was for me to get into the paint and see what I had," Fields said. "I took the shot and the shot went down."
Coppin had one last shot and a desperation three-point heave fell short. But Coppin forward Jerel Seamon was hit by Morgan's Doug Qualls as he attempted to tip in the follow.
After clearing the floor of celebrating Morgan players and fans, Seamon stepped to the line. He hit the first shot, but his second shot bounced off the rim and Morgan's celebration began against a Coppin team that was 58-2 on its home court since the 1992-93 season.
"We're 2-0 in conference, we won a game on the road in the most difficult place in the conference to win, it's a huge monkey off our backs -- it's King Kong," Fuller said. "It's only one game and we do need to prepare to get better. But right now, I'm on cloud nine."
Which is not the same cloud that Mitchell, facing a big rebuilding year, is on.
"This is not your typical Coppin State team," Mitchell said. "They're riding on the laurels of previous Coppin State teams.
"I'm going to have to make adjustments. I'm going to have to find five guys ready to step up and play at one time."
Pub Date: 12/13/98