Coppin State's outside and inside combination of guard Reggie Isaac and forward Larry Stewart combined for 40 points, as the Eagles overcame a slow start to beat the College of Charleston, 78-60, last night at the Coppin Center.
Isaac scored 13 of his 21 in the second half, as Coppin (2-4) shook off a poor shooting first half, during which the team shot just 39.1 percent from the field. Stewart also scored 13 of his 19 in the second half and grabbed a Cougars (4-4). Guard Mike Beckett led Charleston, who lost at Maryland Eastern Shore on Thursday night, with 16 points.
Although the Eagles won the game easily, they had to shake off a lackluster first half during which the team hit just nine of 23 shots and survived one stretch of nearly seven minutes without a field goal.
"I think early we tried to evaluate the level of competition we were up against and it wasn't up to what we have been playing against," said Coppin coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell, referring to his team's road losses to New Mexico State, Tulsa, Texas-El PasoPaso and Oklahoma. "We finally got things going our way."
Despite the shaky start, Coppin still had a 36-28 lead at halftime. The visiting Cougars were able to cut it to 44-39 on a Mike Beckett jumper in the opening minutes of the second half.
But Coppin began to open the game up when point guard Larry Yarbray (13 points, five assists ) followed a missed shot with a layup and then scored after making a steal to put Coppin up, 48-39. That was the start of a 9-0 run that gave the Eagles a 55-39 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
Charleston was able to get the deficit down to 63-52 on a short hook by Craig Jones with Just over five minutes left, but two free throws by Stewart followed by a three-pointer by Isaac gave Coppin a 68-52 lead and put the game out of reach.
"Larry just gave another Larry Stewart performance," Mitchell said of the 6-foot-8 forward who recovered from a first half where he shot just one of five from the field. "And once Reggie got in the game, it's just important for us that he does that."
Mitchell said the key to the team's recovery was the team play they showed after a slow start - a style the Eagles showed just flashes of in their only other home game, a win last week over University of Maryland Baltimore County.
"We played with a lot more continuity and I'm pretty happy about that," Mitchell said. "We started looking for each other and we finally played as a unit. (Charleston) is a decent team and we're very happy to come away with a victory."
The Eagles were flat in the early going but still were able to grab a 12-8 lead when center Joe Hammond hit a layup and a field goal with 14:29 left in the half.
But then Coppin went totally cold, failing to score a point in the next 4:41. Meanwhile, the Cougars were running off nine straight points to take a 17-12 lead with 10:40 left in the half.
After Charleston's Chris Jackson scored on a baseline dunk to give the Cougars their biggest lead, 19-13, Coppin, with a 6-0 run, tied the game at 19. Coppin, aided by Charleston's 16 person fouls in the first half - the Eagles committed five - hit eight of 13 free throws in the last seven minutes of the half to help the team to a 36-28 halftime lead.
Isaac was Coppin's leading scorer at the half with nine points. The Cougars, led by Beckett's nine points, shot 44.4 percent from the field and scored eight of their 12 field goals in the half in the paint.
Coppin is off until Thursday, when it will take on Clemson in the Golden Panther Tournament in Miami, Fla. Florida International University and Florida Atlantic are the other participants. The Eagles won't return to the Coppin Center until Jan. 9, when they will play host to North Carolina A&T in a rematch of last year's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship game.