Morgan State coach Chris Fuller called it an "unthinkable collapse."
It appeared there was no way the Bears -- previously unbeaten at home this season -- could lose yesterday at the Finney Center.
North Carolina A&T; -- previously winless on the road -- was in disarray on offense; its star guard, Jonathan Richmond, was on the bench because of the stagnation, and Morgan was up by 18 points with less than eight minutes to play.
The Bears, who were shooting for undisputed possession of second place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, had dominated the game, and it seemed that running out the clock to secure victory was a formality.
But the unlikely happened. Morgan could do little right at crunch time, Richmond re-entered the game to score 21 of his 25 points in little more than five minutes and the Aggies stole a 71-69 verdict on the senior's two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining.
Several officiating calls abetted the Aggies' comeback, and a non-call at the finish -- when Fuller believed Curtis King was fouled during a missed jump shot from the top of the key -- capped the sequence.
But Fuller refused to blame any of that.
"That's not where we lost this game," he said. "We didn't play smart at all. We played right into their hands with quick shots and poor passes. People made bad decisions, shooting the ball too early and throwing up threes. We deserved to lose."
The defeat prevented Morgan (9-11, 8-4) from reaching the .500 level in February for the first time in 10 years and dumped the Bears back into a MEAC tie with Coppin, which was beaten in overtime at home by first-place South Carolina State.
Richmond, who started by missing nine of his first 10 field-goal attempts, said he "didn't have a good feeling early and I kind of got down on myself shooting. But after I came back in and the second one went down,I had confidence. I just kept shooting it."
The Bears still had a 60-45 lead when the Kentucky native went to work with his first three-pointer of the second half. He then sank two jumpers, another three and then another and the deficit was 64-60.
In the final 35 seconds, two line-drive three-pointers by Richmond found the mark, and the Aggies were even at 69/
Morgan (11 second-half turnovers) then threw the ball away for the final time and Jimmy Fields fouled Richmond, who had put up a prayer in an attempt to win it.
"I think this one is going to put us over the hump," said Aggies coach Roy Thomas, whose team walloped the Bears at home, 75-51, last month.
"You can't blame anything for us blowing an 18-point lead in the final seven minutes," said Fuller. "We don't have to look any farther than the mirror to find out who to be mad at. We had a situation where a guy [Richmond] got hot and we didn't do our job denying him the ball.
"I don't think we've played that poorly in a conference game since I've been here. Maybe it's time to go back to boot camp."
NORTH CAROLINA A&T; -- Jenkins 4-8, 3-6, 11, Clyburn 1-1 0-0 2, Chambers 0-0 1-2 1, Carrington 4-11 0-0 9, Garrett 3-10 2-4 8, Richmond 8-18 3-5 25, Price 1-2 0-0 2, Murphy 1-4 1-1 3, Robinson 1-4 0-0 2, Tetterton 4-5 0-2 8. Totals 27-63 10-20 71.
MORGAN STATE -- Sparks 7-13 2-5 16, Lewis 2-5 2-6 6, King 4-11 0-0 8, Fields 8-17 8-8 28, Herron 0-4 2-4 2, Demory 1-5 0-0 3, McBride 0-1 0-0 0, Canady 1-1 4-4 6, Qualls 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-58 18-27 69.
Halftime--Morgan State, 71-69. 3-point goals--N 7-19 (Carrington 1-3, Garrett 0-2, Richmond 6-12, Price 0-1, Murphy 0-1); M 5-16 (Sparks 0-2, Fields 4-9, Demory 1-5). Rebounds--N 37 (Jenkins 6, Carrington 6, Robinson 6); M 42 (Lewis 10). Assists--N 9 (Carrington 2, Richmond 2, Robinson 2); M 15 (Fields 5). Total fouls--N 21; M 14. A--1,000.
Pub Date: 2/07/99