SAVANNAH, Ga. -- The coach stood limply in front of the
bench -- arms folded, a disbelieving look in his eyes.
One of his players sat dejectedly on the court -- staring at his
feet, not wanting to look up at the all-too-familiar scoreboard.
Savannah State seemed overwhelmed by the finality of it all.
Yep, the Tigers went 0-for-the-season. They finished 0-28 by
losing to Florida A&M 49-44 on Monday night.
"It's unbelievable," senior Sherard Reddick said. "I don't
Savannah State became just the second NCAA Division I school in
a half-century to go through an entire season without a win.
At least the Tigers didn't go down without a fight, managing
their closest loss of the season. They tied it at 41 with 1:57
remaining when Donald Carson -- son of former New York Giants
linebacker Harry Carson -- hit two free throws.
But Michael Harper put Florida A&M (9-13) ahead for good just 12
seconds later with two free throws. Mark Williams hit a long
3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining to pull Savannah State to
45-44, but Tony Tate clinched it at the free throw line for the
Rattlers. He made six straight in the final 24 seconds and led all
scorers with 23 points.
Reddick scored 12 points to pace Savannah State, which kept it
close despite shooting just 22.6 percent (14-of-62) from the field.
"It doesn't feel like we lost 28 games this season," Reddick
said. "I guess God is testing us."
Savannah State also had a chance to lead at halftime for the
first time all season. But Michael Ayodele hit a 3 with 8 seconds
remaining in the period, putting Florida A&M ahead 28-26.
"Two points is real good," said Chris White, a 19-year-old
student who was among the crowd of 1,357. "Usually by halftime,
we're losing by 20 points. I actually might watch the rest of the
game instead of just talking to my friends."
Indeed, the crowd was on its feet in the frantic final seconds.
But in the end, it was still a loss.
"Basically," White said, "they're out of their league."
The Rattlers were clearly relieved to get out of Savannah with a
win. During one of the final timeouts, Darius Glover tried to calm
his teammates. "Come on, guys. Relax. Relax."
When Carson shot an airball on a desperation 3-pointer that
could have forced overtime, Florida A&M coach Mike Gillespie walked
in front of the bench and said defiantly, "We won the ... game."
Savannah State couldn't say that all year, joining Prairie View
in the hall of infamy. The Texas school went 0-28 in 1991-92 -- the
only other Division I team in the last 50 years to endure a winless
The Tigers won four games last season, but had to forfeit those
because of an ineligible player -- the son of coach Edward Daniels,
This time, Savannah State completed an imperfect season without
having to rely on forfeits. The Tigers lost by an average margin of
nearly 23 points a game.
"They gave it their best effort all year," Daniels said. "We
just needed some additional help."
Daniels isn't sure if he'll be back next season, but that wasn't
his concern on this night.
"The game is about the kids," he said. "Whether I'm here or
not, this will go on. It's more important than me. I just want to
make sure my kids are all right. I'm going to spend the next few
days with them."
Savannah State has only eight scholarship players -- five short
of the limit and the most striking example of a school that had no
business jumping to Division I.
The Tigers had some success in Division II -- former NFL great
Shannon Sharpe is an alumnus -- but moving up to the highest level
has been a major blunder. The school doesn't have enough money to
fully fund any of its programs, and no conference stepped forward
with an invitation.
So, Savannah State plays on as an independent, with scant hope
"It's very tough," Carson said. "We all came together and
fought hard. We just couldn't pull it out."
Harry Carson traveled from New Jersey to watch his son's final
college game, taking part in ceremonies before the game to honor
the team's three seniors.
"He's learned some valuable lessons that will be with him the
rest of his life," the ex-football star said. "It's just a game.
He'll live. The sun will come up tomorrow. I'm sure he's not
feeling good right now, but he'll be OK."
At least the Tigers got what they craved when they ventured into
Division I -- plenty of attention. ESPN even did live "cut-ins"
during its regular programming to provide updates on Savannah
Florida A&M routed Savannah State 92-68 in Tallahassee 12 days
earlier, but the Rattlers had a much tougher time in the Tigers'
When it was over, Daniels huddled briefly with four of his
players. He told them he was proud of their effort. He reminded
them that they've got their whole lives to erase the disappointment
of this winless season.
"People remember the last thing you've done," Daniels said.
"They have a chance to go on and do some other things. Maybe
they'll be able to look back and talk in a lighthearted way about
But not on this night.
The embarrassment was too real.
The ending was too painful.
"We're all just struggling emotionally," Reddick said. "It's
hard to describe."