Sunday, March 14, 2004

Tate lifts unlikely Florida A&M in MEAC tourney

Other conference tournaments

The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. - Tony Tate made the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament championship his best game at Florida A&M and gave a preview of what that the Rattlers will bring to the NCAA Tournament.

Tate scored a career-best 20 points and hit five of the Rattlers' 10 3-pointers Saturday, lifting Florida A&M to a 58-51 victory against Coppin State and its first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 1999.

This team, like that one, will arrive with a losing record. The Rattlers were 12-18 after winning the MEAC in 1999, and are 14-16 now.

Their first stop, coach Mike Gillespie said, will be the play-in game against another low-rated team for the last spot in the field of 64.

"That's fine," the fast-talking coach said. "That'll give us a chance to get another win and then go upset Kentucky or whoever we play."

The fifth-seeded Rattlers, who stunned top-seeded South Carolina State in the semifinals, will be making their third trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Coppin State (18-14) had only five field goals in the second half and missed nine of 16 free throws.

Western Athletic: Nevada 66, UTEP 60

FRESNO, Calif. - Kirk Snyder led Nevada to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title despite a terrible shooting performance, scoring the go-ahead basket with 3:14 left.

Kevinn Pinkney scored 15 points, including two baskets in the final minutes of a tough victory that clinched the Wolf Pack's first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1985 - and the third in school history.

Snyder, the WAC Player of the Year, finished with 11 points on 3-for-13 shooting and 14 rebounds, while Todd Okeson added 14 points. Nevada (23-8) shot just 31 percent.

America East: Vermont 72, Maine 53

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Taylor Coppenrath returned after missing nearly four weeks with a broken wrist to score 43 points and lead Vermont to the America East Tournament title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Coppenrath scored 28 points in the first half when the Catamounts (21-8) surged ahead 40-23.

Eric Dobson and Joe Campbell led the Black Bears (20-9) with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Southwestern Athletic: Alabama St. 63, Alabama A&M 58

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Alabama State won its second title in four seasons. The Hornets (16-14) advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, when they fell to Michigan State in the first round.

Xavier Oliver led the Hornets with 16 points and eight rebounds. Obie Trotter led the Bulldogs (13-17) with 21 points.

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