When an angry Curtis King pulled away from teammate Rasheed Sparks and stalked off the court with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half last night, Morgan State basketball coach Chris Fuller knew he had to do something drastic to regain control of his team.
So, about 15 minutes later, at the start of the second half, Fuller did what some might consider to have been unthinkable -- benching all of his starters.
It turned out to be the right move as the Bears rallied in the second half to race past Hampton, 74-61, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game at Gilman School.
King, Sparks, Jimmy Fields, Angelo Herron and Jeric Lewis were all on the bench at the start of the second half as Fuller went with Jason Demory, Brandon Reece, Doug Qualls, Heddrick McBride and Reginald Bullock.
"I've never done anything like this since I've been at Morgan," said Fuller, in his fourth year as Bears coach. "I did it often in junior college. When you're dealing with young kids, you never know what buttons you have to push. We came out flat and having the starters sitting there and watching the other guys play seemed to be the right thing to do."
Was it ever.
Morgan was trailing 29-27 at halftime against the seventh-place Pirates (4-14, 4-6), just two days after the Bears (8-10, 7-3) blew an excellent chance to take over first place in the MEAC by losing to Norfolk State, 96-84, in overtime.
In that loss, which ended a four-game Morgan winning streak, the Bears scored the first six points in overtime, but didn't get another point the rest of the way.
In the first half last night, it looked as if Morgan might have been replaying that setback, forcing Fuller to make his move.
The decision not only lit a fire under the starters later, but it gave Demory and Reece a chance to make a strong pitch for more playing time.
Demory, a junior guard from Woodbridge, Va., came out in the second half with two three-pointers and a 15-foot jumper in the first two minutes to help turn the tide against Hampton.
Demory would go on to score 12 points in the second half to finish with a career-high 14.
But the loudest cheers were reserved for Reece, who is a freshman and a product of St. Frances High. The strongly-built Reece scored a career-high 12 points and had a team-high seven rebounds.
The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Reece was outstanding at times with his poise on the court and he received a warm ovation from the fans when he left with 3: 34 remaining.
"I can do it," said Reece, who helped the Bears improve to 4-0 at Gilman. "I just have to keep on working hard and everything will fall into place for me."
Demory said: "I never lost confidence in my ability to shoot. This was fun and it proved that everybody on this team is capable of helping us win games."
HAMPTON -- Young 1-7 0-0 3, Williams 3-5 3-4 9, Belton 4-9 5-7 13, Farrington 6-15 10-13 25, Adams 3-6 0-2 8, McWilliams 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter 0-3 3-4 3, Dowell 0-4 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 17-49 21-30 19-61.
MORGAN STATE -- Sparks 9-12 2-5 22, Lewis 2-5 0-2 4, King 4-8 3-5 11, Fields 2-9 0-0 5, Herron 0-0 0-0 0, Demory 4-6 3-5 14, Reece 6-12 0-3 12, McBride 0-1 1-2 1, Van Hook 2-5 1-1 5, Bullock 0-0 0-0 0, Canady 0-3 0-2 0, Qualls 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-62 10-25 74.
Halftime--Hampton, 29-27. 3-point goals--H 6-14 (Young 1-2, Farrington 3-7, Adams 2-4, Dowell 0-1); MS 6-13 (Sparks 2-3, Fields 1-5, Demory 3-5) Rebounds--H 42 (Williams 6); MS 37 (Reece 7). Assists--H 7 (Young, Farrington, Adams 2); MS 17 (Fields 6). Total fouls--H 19, MS 19. Technicals--Hampton bench, Morgan bench, Lewis, Jeric. A--NA.
Pub Date: 1/26/99