Is a front-runner ever going to emerge in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference?
Delaware State came to the Coppin Center last night atop the MEAC standings, but no one was surprised when Coppin State disposed of the Hornets, 79-56.
Last night's combatants both have two conference losses, as do North Carolina A&T and Howard. Last year's NCAA tournament representative, Florida A&M, is one loss behind, and any one of the five could lose in the first round or win the MEAC tournament at the Norfolk Scope, March 4-7.
Coach Fang Mitchell was pleased by last night's effort, in which Coppin State (12-6, 6-2) beat Delaware State (8-10, 5-2) for the 10th time in the last 11 tries and the fifth straight at home.
Like Mitchell, Delaware State coach Jeff Jones is working a young team with only two seniors, and the Hornets are 6-0 at home but 2-10 on the road. Last night they were completing a five-game road swing, and in their two previous games they lost at Buffalo, a first-year member of Division I, and at Division III Lincoln.
"I didn't tell our players any of that," Mitchell said. "I didn't really care."
Larry Yarbray came off the bench and made all five of his field-goal attempts en route to a game-high 14 points. Sophomore swingman James Mazyck was right behind with 13 points, and the two combined for 13 rebounds and seven assists. Freshman guard Marcus Robinson and Tariq Saunders had 12 and 11, respectively, and Darren Woods had a team-high 12 rebounds.
Complementing that balance at the offensive end was the Eagles' defense, which forced 24 turnovers and held Delaware State to 30.3 percent (10-33) shooting in the second half. Leading scorer Tyrone Boger was limited to a season-low four points.
The Hornets' recent scoring difficulties resurfaced in the first eight minutes of the half, when they had just two baskets. Coppin State scored the first five points for a 38-31 advantage, and after Delaware State pulled to within 40-36, the Eagles went on a decisive 11-0 spurt, expanding their lead to 51-36.
Delaware State got within 56-46 on Roy Williams' basket with nine minutes left. Coppin State, however, responded with eight straight points, five by Mazyck, whose two free throws stretched it to 70-50.
"The key to the game was our defensive pressure at the start of the second half," Mitchell said.