For Coppin State, it was a chance to get home and get into the victory column.
For the University of Maryland Baltimore County, it was another hard lesson in growing up with a youth movement.
Last night's game at Pullen Gymnasium went just about as expected as the Eagles dominated the final 30 minutes en route to a 78-61 triumph, their 14th straight at their own arena.
Senior forward Larry Stewart scored 32 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for Coppin (1-3), which returns to the rigors of the nationally ranked tomorrow night, visiting Oklahoma.
"We really needed this win," said coach Ron (Fang) Mitchell. "You're not allowed mistakes out there on the road, but here you can make a few.
"We're going out there [Oklahoma] to win, but we've got to take good care of the basketball and get those bunnies [layups] in."
The Eagles were a little rough around the edges in the first half, but Stewart took over inside with 14 points and 11 rebounds and they forged ahead by as many as 11 before UMBC (1-5) scored the final five points to draw to within 33-27.
But a three-point play by Stewart, after a drive and foul, pushed the lead to 40-27 early in the second half and the Retrievers were never able to whittle much of it away.
UMBC tried to press, but had little success against the quick Eagles guards, Larry Yarbray and Reggie Isaac.
"There wasn't much else we could do," said UMBC coach Earl Hawkins. "You've got to try something. We didn't score and they scored too much. That was about it.
"I think we worked harder and at least made an effort to play better defense and take better shots. But we still have to learn how to win."
The defeat was the fourth straight for UMBC, its first such streak since the 1987-88 season.
Hawkins benched his two senior frontcourt men, Jim Frantz and Derrick Reid, for most of the second half in Tuesday's 67-58 loss to Boston University, and neither started last night.
But they responded nicely, Reid with 14 points and five rebounds and Frantz with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Retrievers caught Coppin at an opportune time last season -- two days after the Eagles' momentous upset of Maryland -- and scored a 79-73 victory at UMBC. This time they caught them winless and in a home opener.
"We've got to stop playing home openers," said Hawkins. "That's three of them."
Mitchell said the Eagles are "behind right now" with respect to where he wanted them to be. But injuries to Yarbray and 270-pound center Larry McCollum have influenced that.
"Just little things we're doing wrong," he said, "but they know how to win. They've been in that situation before. McCollum's first practice was last Wednesday. He was better today."
Isaac collected 24 points, his season average, for the Eagles, who have not lost at home since a double-overtime decision to Bethune-Cookman in 1988-89. Stewart added four blocks to his impressive offensive totals.