WASHINGTON -- This basketball game was more about mutual respect and love between coach Chris Fuller and his Morgan State players than Xs and Os, winning and losing.
Fuller attended his father's funeral yesterday in Buffalo, N.Y., and immediately caught a flight here to watch the Bears overwhelm Howard University, 84-62, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference mismatch at Burr Gymnasium.
Fuller arrived 15 minutes before the game started and then sat quietly on the bench the entire game while assistants Lamont Pennick and Chris Watson ran the team.
"I didn't come here to coach," said Fuller, trying his best to keep his emotions in check. "I just wanted to be with the guys. It was the safest place for me today."
Morgan junior point guard Jimmy Fields said, "We dedicated the game to Coach Fuller. We worked hard on a game plan all week with coaches Pennick and Watson so we could go out and win without coach Fuller doing any coaching today. We wanted him to enjoy the moment as much as possible."
Morgan's senior scoring leader, Rasheed Sparks, said, "We played for Coach Fuller today. We all think a lot of him and couldn't let him down."
Fuller embraced Sparks when he left the floor yesterday after scoring 19 points and contributing six rebounds, five assists and one steal.
Fuller's father, Louis, died Monday night in Buffalo following a long illness and the Morgan coach flew to Buffalo that night.
"The decision to come back for the game was made by my family," said Fuller. "Dad was a great athlete, playing basketball and baseball, and he was a big fan of our Morgan team. He would have wanted me to come to the game today."
The runaway victory, the sixth in the last seven games for Morgan, enabled the Bears (9-10, 8-3) to remain one game behind South Carolina State (10-9, 9-2) in the MEAC.
Hapless Howard, which fell behind, 22-2, in the first 7 1/2 minutes, dropped to 2-17 overall and 2-9 in the MEAC.
Sparks had plenty of help yesterday from Fields (20 points, seven assists, two steals) and Curtis King (22 points, three steals, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks).
King, a sophomore forward, has been on a scoring tear the last six games, racking up 130 points to raise his average to 13.7 a game.
When it was obvious early that Howard was not in Morgan's class yesterday, Pennick and Watson shuffled players in and out of the game.
Howard has been playing this season with six walk-ons and things got worse yesterday when starting point guard Ali Abdullah was suspended for one game by first-year coach Kirk Saulny for violating team rules and senior scoring leader Melvin Watson didn't start because he was late for practice this week.
Saulny said both Abdullah and Watson would start against Coppin State here tomorrow night.
Saulny became so disenchanted with his team's play in the first half he benched all five starters for several minutes.
The once-enthusiastic Howard fans were just as unhappy as Saulny as they often booed their players for poor shots and a few fans wore bags over their heads.
MORGAN STATE -- Sparks 8-11 0-0 19, King 11-16 0-0 22, Lewis 1-1 3-4 5, Fields 7-10 1-2 20, Herron 0-2 0-0 0, Demory 1-4 0-0 3, Reece 1-2 0-2 2, McBride 2-3 0-0 4, Van Hook 2-6 0-0 5, Bullock 1-2 2-2 4, Canady 0-1 0-0 0, Qualis 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 34-60 6-10 84.
HOWARD -- Bayyon 1-3 1-2 3, McCormick 1-4 0-0 2, Real 0-4 0-2 0, Michell 8-10 0-0 22, Bailey 0-1 0-0 0, Holliway 8-16 0-2 16, Langley 1-1 0-0 2, Adams 0-1 0-0 0, Libbett 3-7 1-2 7. Totals 26-61 2-8 62.
Halftime--Morgan State 46-27. 3-point goals--MSU 10-19 (Sparks 3-6, Fields 5-7, Demory 1-3, Van Hook 1-3), HU 8-18 (McCormick 0-1, Michell 6-7, Watson 2-10). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--MSU 30 (Lewis 8), HU 34 (Libbett 9). Assists--MSU 24 (Fields 7), HU 16 (Watson 5). Total fouls--MSU 9, HU 12. A-- 2,700.
Pub Date: 1/31/99