After losing their aura of invincibility in a conference-opening loss last week, Coppin State sent a message via last night that it still will be in the thick of things when the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title is settled in March.
The Eagles, who have won 16 straight home games, led by as many as 20 over North Carolina A&T on their way to an 87-73 win in a rematch of last season's conference tournament title game.
Guard Reggie Isaac scored 30 points and forward Larry Stewart had 18 -- 14 in the second half -- as the Eagles (5-8, 1-1 in MEAC play) beat the Aggies for the seventh straight time. North Carolina A&T (6-4, 2-1) was led by guard Dana Elliott's 24 points.
It was an impressive effort by Coppin, which struggled early in the season and lost its MEAC opener at South Carolina State that ended a nine-game conference winning streak.
"After losing at South Carolina State, it gave people hope that they can beat us," Coppin coach Fang Mitchell said. "Now we have to show people that we're a good team. When you come in here, we're supposed to have that attitude to fight to the bitter end."
That fight showed in the early going, as the Eagles, a 45.7 percent shooting team from the field going into last night, shot 64.2 percent from the field in the first half in leading by as many as nine. Only North Carolina A&T's three-point shooting in the first half -- the team was eight of 12 (66.7 percent), with Elliott hitting five of seven -- kept the Aggies within 45-40 at halftime.
"I was hoping he wouldn't light it up all night long -- he was on fire," Mitchell said of Elliott. "They weren't shooting them from the three-point line; they were a lot deeper."
After the Aggies cut their deficit to 47-44 in the opening minutes of the second half, Coppin's full-court defense sparked an 11-0 run that gave the Eagles a 58-44 lead with 14 minutes, 40 seconds. They led, 70-50, with 11:10 left, and the Aggies never got closer than 12.
Elliott, who had 18 points at halftime, scored just six in the second half to finish with 24. After making eight three-pointers in the first half, the Aggies were just two of 17 from behind the line in final 20 minutes.
"We felt if we put pressure on the threes, they wouldn't fall all night," Mitchell said. "We had to push up on that, and our defense came into play and led to some easy baskets for us."
Coppin shot 58.6 percent from the field. Isaac made 12 of his 17 field-goal attempts (including two threes) and Stewart, who had just four points and two rebounds in the first half, scored 14 in the second half and finished with 10 rebounds.
"We let Stewart get back into the game, and he and Isaac are two good players," Aggies coach Don Corbett said.