DOVER, Del. -- Scouts from five National Basketball Association teams came to watch the top four scorers in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in a battle of the league's two ,, best teams, but in the end, just one player -- Coppin State's Larry Stewart -- stood above the rest.
Stewart was a force with the game on the line, scoring 17 of his 25 points in the second half and grabbing 20 rebounds, as the Eagles defeated Delaware State, 76-66, in a game that was stopped with 18 seconds left after a fight broke out behind the Coppin State bench.
Coppin (11-8, 7-1) won its seventh straight after losing its conference opener at South Carolina State. Delaware State (12-6, 5-2), which entered the game with a 13-2 record at Memorial Hall over the last two seasons, lost for only the second time at home this season.
Scouts from the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Washington Bullets saw Stewart at his best, but defense won the game for Coppin. The Eagles held Delaware State forward Tom Davis (14 points) and guard Emanual Davis (nine points) -- the Nos. 2 and 4 scorers in the MEAC -- 10 points below their averages, and limited the Hornets to four field goals in the final 11 minutes.
"I think everybody just dug a little deeper at the end," said Coppin assistant coach Derek Brown. "We've been playing this way ever since the South Carolina State loss, and the kids really believe in playing the passing lanes -- especially in the last four minutes of the game."
Just five points divided the two teams as they split games last season, and this one appeared to be headed to the wire, as the Hornets came from a 39-30 halftime deficit to tie the game on a jumper by Victor Ford (15 points) with 11 minutes, 25 seconds left. But that's when Stewart took over, converting a three-point VTC play that started a 12-2 run -- Stewart scored 10 of the points -- to put Coppin up, 64-54, with 8:04 left.
The Hornets got as close as 69-64 after a jumper by Donnell Thomas (10 points) with 3:39 left, but Coppin then ran off seven straight points to go up 76-64. Delaware State scored a field goal with 18 seconds left to make it 76-66, but the game was called after the fight between Delaware State fans and a few Coppin fans spilled over to the Coppin bench. No players were involved.
"It's going to be emotional when you have people who know each other playing," said Coppin coach Fang Mitchell. "It's good our guys met the challenge and came away winners. There were times when things weren't going right, but we kept going."
Coppin guard Reggie Isaac (17 points on 7-for-22 shooting) had an off night and scored just five second-half points, but there were many players to pick up the slack. James Mazyck scored 14 points, and Larry Yarbray, Michael Johnson, Tariq Saunders and Larry McCollum helped neutralize an offense that averaged 90 points a game.
But, once again, Stewart did the work when it counted.
"I felt it was getting kind of close and I didn't feel like I was playing well," Stewart said. "It was just time for me to pick it up."
Coppin's next two games will be at home, with Howard coming to the Coppin Center on Saturday.