HARRISONBURG, Va. -- James Madison's anticipated appearance in the NCAA tournament last season was erased by an unsavory loss to Navy in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
Coach Lefty Driesell won't be able to pay back Navy for that monumental upset, because the Mids moved to the Patriot League, but James Madison has spent December beefing up its record against teams from Maryland. The Dukes got their third victory in as many tries against an opponent from Driesell's former home, as they pounded Coppin State, 100-88, yesterday.
James Madison beat UMES by 27 points on Dec. 2 and handed Mount St. Mary's its second-worst loss ever Wednesday. The Dukes jumped all over Coppin State, getting a pair of three-point plays in the first 48 seconds and leads of 11-2, 22-8 and 42-24. The Eagles are of a better caliber than the other Maryland teams that have visited here, however, and they never backed down under a barrage of free-throw records.
Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell did not complain after the game about it, but he was visibly displeased with the officiating. The Eagles were whistled for 34 fouls and James Madison attempted 47 free throws, both JMU Convocation Center records.
One sequence in particular typified Mitchell's frustration. Immediately after a basket by Tariq Saunders was disallowed and the player was charged with an offensive foul, Kent Culuko drove the baseline for the Dukes, converted and was awarded a free throw. Instead of being down by 58-44, the Eagles trailed by 61-42.
The Eagles did force 26 turnovers, however, and their full-court pressure never allowed Driesell to enjoy what could have been a meaningless second half.
"We played well for 35 minutes," said Driesell, whose team has beaten South Alabama in addition to the three Maryland schools. "Don't act like we haven't played some pretty good teams. Not too many teams in the country have played a tougher schedule than we have."
Both James Madison, which has lost to Georgia Tech, UNLV and Brigham Young, and Coppin State entered this season in similar situations. Both won their respective regular-season titles in 1990-91, were upset in conference tournaments and are using numerous new players.
Bryan Edwards, a junior guard who spent two seasons at Boston College, had a game-high 26 points, including 14-for-16 at the free-throw line. The biggest pain for the Eagles was Jeff Chambers, a junior center from Denton on the Eastern Shore who had 13 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Chambers personally out-rebounded Coppin State in the first half, 10-9. James Madison had a 48-24 advantage on the boards, as Paul Carter, a junior forward who played at Allegany Community College, had 11 to go with 14 points.
"Their offensive rebounding was one of the things we preached about," Mitchell said. "We have to keep them off the boards, and that was the key factor. Fortunately, we played harder in the second half."
Keith Carmichael led the Eagles with 18 points, negating the total James Madison got from Culuko, its leading scorer on the year. Both are freshman guards from New Jersey, and they were not meeting for the first time. Larry Yarbray had 15 points, and Saunders bounced back from a poor first half to finish with 14 points and five rebounds.
Coppin State is off until Jan. 2, when it opens its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule at home against South Carolina State.