For the second straight night, Bowie State played crucial stretches of an NCAA Division II tournament game with power forward Lee Cook limited by foul trouble and center Attila Cosby sitting injured on the bench. And for the second straight night, there were more than enough bodies to compensate.
Relying on an overwhelming size advantage, top-seeded Bowie State scored the first 10 points against No. 5 seed Columbus State and never trailed, recording an 84-72 win in a South Atlantic Regional semifinal before 3,574 at A.C. Jordan Arena.
The Bulldogs will host Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association rival and No. 2 seed Virginia Union in tomorrow's regional final at 7 p.m.
Virginia Union (26-4), which topped South Carolina Upstate, 85-67, in yesterday's first semifinal, lost both regular season meetings with Bowie State (26-4), although the Panthers went on to win the CIAA tournament. Both teams spent time ranked No. 1 in the country this season.
"It's what everybody pretty much wanted," Bowie Coach Luke D'Alessio said. "Playing Virginia Union on our home court to go to the Elite Eight, you couldn't ask for anything better."
Cook, the regional player of the year and Bowie's leading scorer and rebounder, came back from a miserable first-round game in which he fouled out after playing just 17 minutes. Last night, the 6-foot-10 forward was dominant at times, registering team highs with 25 points and 13 rebounds despite frequently being double- and triple-teamed.
"Man, I just tried to play hard," said Cook. "I'm so pumped up and ready that I overdo myself sometimes."
Cook scored six points in two minutes as Bowie State increased its lead to 13 points shortly into the second half. But when the forward picked up his fourth foul with 12 minutes left, he headed to the bench. Cosby, meantime, continued to be hampered by a leg injury, playing three scoreless minutes.
And with both players sitting down, Bowie State hardly missed a step, relying primarily on 6-6 forward Derick Payne (17 points, 12 rebounds) and 6-7 guard Isaiah Johnson (19 points, 11 rebounds).
Columbus State (23-9), the Peach Belt Conference champions from Columbus, Ga., had no starters taller than 6-5.
"Cook is a great player but the rest of them are very good players," Columbus State Coach Herbert Greene said. "It didn't matter what [lineup] they had; they had the size and the strength on us in every situation. They're just a tough outfit."
Columbus State senior guard Yandel Brown, the second-leading scorer in Division II, had 24 points on 8-of-27 shooting.
A win tomorrow would send Bowie State to next week's Elite Eight in Grand Forks, N.D. It would be the second national quarterfinal appearance in three years for the Bulldogs, who have never advanced beyond the final four.