RALEIGH, N.C., March 3 -- For the second straight year, Bowie State came to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament as the No. 1 seed from the league's Eastern Division. And for the second straight year, the Bulldogs left the tournament quietly with a disappointing quarterfinal defeat.
Bowie was ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history but struggled to score inside, sent shots ricocheting off all parts of the backboard and never established an offensive flow in losing to lowly Fayetteville State, 61-59, before 12,111 on Thursday night.
School officials had believed that by winning their tournament opener, Bowie (24-4) would be virtually assured the No. 1 seed and home court advantage in the Division II tournament's South Atlantic region. They also hoped to reap publicity from Saturday's CIAA final, which will be shown live on ESPN2 for the first time.
"At this point, I couldn't care where the regional is; we just have to play better," Bowie Coach Luke D'Alessio said. "Honestly, there's no way in my mind I thought we'd lose the CIAA tournament this year, and that's the truth."
The Bulldogs are certain to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament but won't know the regional's location until the Division II field is announced Sunday night. Bowie held the top spot in the regional rankings this week; South Carolina Upstate (21-6) was second, and Kennesaw State (23-4) third. Both teams play in the Peach Belt Conference quarterfinals on Friday night.
Bowie beat Fayetteville (13-16) by 22 in the teams' only regular season meeting, but never led Thursday night. Bowie's Brent Campbell (Lab School) hit a three-pointer with less than a second remaining, but the Bulldogs had earlier squandered several chances to go ahead and never had the ball with a chance to draw even in the final minute. "By the time we cut it to one," Campbell said, "it was a little bit too late."
Bowie trailed by 11 early in the second half, and was down eight when junior point guard Kevin Bell (Montrose Christian) picked up his fourth foul with 12 minutes 55 seconds left.
Still, the Bulldogs rallied, drawing within a single point with five minutes left and regaining possession on a steal by Campbell. But Kiyam Holloway's long jumper was off target and the Broncos then scored four straight points and were content to run down the clock.
Bowie again got within two points on a Lee Cook free throw with 90 seconds remaining. Cook missed the second free throw, and Fayetteville's David Pierce was 6 of 6 from the foul line in the final minute to clinch the win.
Cook, the league's player of the year, finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. His teammates were 13 for 43 from the field, and Bowie was held 27 points under its season average.