For more than two years, a Coppin State home game against a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponent was synonymous with winning. But that all changed against Howard University last night.
With a chance for Coppin to win the game in the final seconds, guard Larry Yarbray's pass was picked off by Howard guard Milan Brown, who passed to Julius McNeil for a layup with two seconds left, giving the Bison a 66-64 win over the Eagles at the Coppin Center.
For Coppin, which entered the game tied for first place in the MEAC, the loss ended a six-game winning streak and a 22-game home winning streak against MEAC opponents. Howard won for the fourth time in the past six games.
"We shot badly tonight, and give Howard credit with its defense," Coppin coach Fang Mitchell said. "I think it was a lack of concentration for us. The turnovers  bothered me more than the shooting percentage."
The Eagles, who shot just 34.5 percent from the field overall, tied the game at 64 when Darren Woods (11 points, all in the second half) scored on a tip-in with 57 seconds left. Howard committed a turnover on its next possession, giving Coppin the ball with 32 seconds left.
After working the clock under 10 seconds, Yarbray tried to pass the ball to Woods at the foul line, but Brown picked off the pass with seven seconds left. That started a fast break, with McNeil scoring on a driving layup for a 66-64 lead with two seconds left.
Coppin called timeout, but failed to get a shot off and lost to an MEAC opponent for just the second time this season.
"We weren't supposed to start running the play until nine seconds," Mitchell said. "If there was a problem, we were supposed to call timeout. I don't know what happened. We wanted to get off a shot, and we didn't."
Coppin was fortunate to be in the game at the end. The Eagles hit just 19 of 55 from the field and 24 of 38 free throws. The Eagles are 0-2 in games decided by three points or fewer.
Coppin's defense forced 23 turnovers and kept the Eagles in the game. But the defense appeared to tire in the final seven minutes, when Howard outscored Coppin by 15-9.
After playing to a 29-29 tie in the first half, the Bison took their second lead of the game after a dunk by McNeil. With Coppin's shooting woes continuing, Howard increased the lead to 41-37 on a jumper by guard Robert Riddick more than four minutes into the half.
But a 16-8 Coppin run sparked by the defense and capped by a jumper by Yarbray gave the Eagles their biggest lead since the game's first six minutes, 53-49.
In the next several minutes, the Eagles appeared to tire. Tommy Brown and Kelsey Sturdivant combined to score eight points -- on relatively easy jumpers and second chance opportunities -- during a 9-2 run that gave Howard a 58-55 lead with 4:22 left. The game remained tight until the end.
Coppin hit just nine of 29 first half field-goal attempts (31 percent), but a suffocating full-court pressure defense helped the Eagles to the halftime tie.
The Eagles missed their first five shots from the field, but a little more than six minutes into the game they had a 12-6 lead -- their biggest of the half -- after two free throws by Yarbray.
But Howard rallied and tied it, 15-15, on a a three-pointer by Brown with 10:14 left in the half.
In the last 10 minutes of the half, the Eagles limited Howard to four field goals but made only four of 16 from the field and six of 11 from the line.