McKee’s late layup lifts Coppin State past Morgan State for MEAC title
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Tywain McKee heard his Coppin State teammates urging him to take command. Because he listened to them, the resurgent Eagles are back in the NCAA tournament—and looking for yet another huge upset on the sport’s grandest stage.
McKee’s driving layup with 2 seconds left helped Coppin State upset top-seeded Morgan State 62-60 on Saturday night in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.
He tied a season high with 33 points for the seventh-seeded Eagles (16-20), who blew a five-point lead with 1 1/2 minutes remaining but recovered to claim their first league title—and first NCAA tournament berth—since 1997.
“I knew that I just had to take over,” McKee said. “My team kept talking to me, every play, ‘Ty, Ty, c’mon, Ty.’ I couldn’t let them down, so I just had to take over.”
Shortly after the Bears tied it 60-all on Jermaine Bolden’s free throw with 29.3 seconds. left, he did.
McKee walked the ball downcourt, dribbled some time off the clock, and made his move with about 5 seconds left, cutting right and floating the go-ahead shot over three defenders.
“I was really contemplating who would get the ball,” Coppin State coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell deadpanned about the play he called. “But it created a situation where the Morgan State player, he was determined to stop Ty, and I’ve got a winner here. Determination is something that he leads with.”
Morgan State had one last chance when Marquise Kately inbounded to Reggie Holmes, who took two dribbles and heaved a long 3-pointer that bounced off the rim as time expired.
“Reggie has made shots like that before,” Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said. “If we had to pick somebody, it would be him. He got a look at it. It just didn’t fall. I’ll take him shooting it again.”
The Eagles piled on one another near one free throw line to celebrate their fourth, and most unlikely, MEAC championship.
“For them to come out here tonight, and play the way they played, and play with the confidence level they played with, trying to achieve this goal can’t be any sweeter than this,” Mitchell said. “They wanted it, they’re getting it and they were determined.”
They won four games in the tournament by a combined six points, snapped the Bears’ seven-game winning streak and have won 12 of 13—with the only loss coming to Morgan State—since starting the season 4-19. That dreadful start included a 78-50 home loss to the Bears.
“We got the (No.) 7 seed, but didn’t really feel like a (No.) 7 seed,” forward Julian Conyers said. “We were playing well … and we felt like the No. 1 team even though we were the No. 7 seed. So we came out, played hard and knew we could do it.”
The Eagles said they fully expect to be sent to Tuesday night’s play-in game in Dayton, but that didn’t matter immediately after this shocker. The program that pulled one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history in its last visit—No. 15 seed Coppin State stunned second-seeded South Carolina in 1997— is headed back into the field of 65.
“People are going to start knowing who the Coppin State players are,” swingman Antwan Harrison said. “Everybody knows about ’97, but now everybody’s going to know about, ‘Oh, this is Coppin State (in 2008).”’
Kately had 21 points—but was held scoreless in the final 12 minutes—for Morgan State (22-10). Holmes finished with 14 points for the Bears, who will make their first postseason trip as a Division I member—just not the one they wanted.
Instead of delivering their second-year coach’s return to the the NCAA tournament, they’re headed instead to the National Invitation Tournament because they won the league’s regular-season title.
Bozeman, the MEAC’s coach of the year, led Cal to the NCAAs three times, but resigned in 1996 amid an NCAA investigation.
“I keep encouraging them that there are not a lot of teams that still play, 22 wins is a great season and hopefully we can add to that,” Bozeman said.