NBA scouts aren't calling for passes to see Coppin State. The Eagles probably aren't going to win 20 games, and they are supposed to do the chasing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference after two years of front-running.
So why is coach Fang Mitchell smiling?
Coppin State beat a team it was supposed to last night, as the Eagles jumped on Youngstown State early and cruised to a 76-59 victory at the Coppin Center. Among Mitchell's starters were a freshman and three sophomores, three seniors played hard off the bench, and the last subs were diving on the floor in the 40th minute.
Youngstown State trailed 55-44 with just under 12 minutes left, but the Penguins proceeded to go more than 10 minutes with just one basket, as the Eagles overcame their own (28-for-68, 41.2 percent) shooting woes.
The visitors made 46.2 percent of their field goal attempts, but they got only 55 attempts and committed 26 turnovers against some fierce pressure. Coppin State has been even stingier in recent years, but the Eagles came in allowing the opposition to shoot 50.5 percent.
"We've been giving up too many easy baskets, and that's something we've been working on," Mitchell said. "Youngstown State's a patient team, and they kept throwing back-door cuts and screens at us. The difference was, we got help from the weak side tonight.
"It was an average performance defensively. We'll get better. The lapses we're making aren't because of effort, they're because of youth. This group has worked harder than any other I've had here. It's a new team, and all they want to do is win."
Tariq Saunders continues to be the Coppin State leader, as the sophomore forward had 21 points and five rebounds. He crammed 11 points into the first eight minutes, guiding the Eagles to a 17-9 lead, and the Penguins never got closer than seven. He is beginning to fill the huge hole created when Larry Stewart took his skills to the Washington Bullets.
Reserve forward Darren Woods had 16 points and a team-high six rebounds, and James Mazyck had six points, six assists and five rebounds. Freshman Keith Carmichael started fast before settling for three baskets, but there are moments when his shooting motion recalls another hero of the last three years, all-time leading scorer Reggie Isaac.
As Mitchell said, with Stewart and Isaac gone this is definitely a different team. The Eagles are 4-2, and they're currently the only MEAC team with a winning record. They play Saturday at James Madison, and after hanging tough for 35 minutes at Oklahoma Dec. 7, they're aren't going to Harrisonburg, Va., for the experience.
Freshman guard Lamar Morton had 13 for Youngstown State.