Coming off a loss at league leader Howard and looking at two key Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games in the next four days, Coppin State was a made-to-order upset victim last night.
The groggy Eagles found themselves trailing lowly Morgan State five minutes into the second half, but regrouped and pulled away for a 70-62 victory over the Bears before 1,131 at the Coppin Center. It was Coppin State's seventh straight win over its crosstown rival, which was losing its fifth straight.
Coppin State limited Morgan State to a single free throw during a critical five-minute span, during which the Eagles turned a 55-54 lead into a 66-55 spread. James Mazyck's free throws completed the 11-1 spurt, as Coppin State made 25 of 42 free throws just 11 days after making 41 of 55 in a 14-point victory at Morgan State.
The young Eagles have built a winning record through defensive pressure and ferocity on the offensive boards, and both qualities were missing in the middle stages of last night's game, when Coppin State dissipated three 10-point leads.
"That's not what you would call one of our better performances," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said. "We were up 14-4 early and the baskets were coming easy. We can't play our guys for 40 minutes, however, and some people off the bench who were starting at the beginning of the year just didn't perform. We were very lethargic."
Coppin State, which plays at Delaware State tomorrow night and is at home Saturday against defending MEAC champion Florida A&M, did get another strong performance from sophomore forward Tariq Saunders, who had game-high totals of 21 points and 11 rebounds. His teammates, however, were a combined 15-for-42 from the field, as Mazyck was the only other Eagles player in double figures, with 10 points.
Saunders crammed 15 points into the first half, when the Eagles had leads of 14-4, 22-12 and 29-19. The Bears cut the difference to 35-32 at halftime, however, and used an 8-2 spurt early in the second half to take a 42-39 lead with 16 minutes and 29 seconds left.
The Bears took their last lead at 50-49 with 9:45 remaining on a basket by Phillip Downs. Jarrad Smith's two free throws with 7:43 left drew the Bears within 55-54, but Morgan State ultimately was foiled by Coppin State's zone defense.
Morgan State's only point during Coppin State's decisive run came via a technical foul, as Larry Yarbray's conduct after a 10-second violation let Smith hit a free throw with 3:53 left. The Bears also were hit with a technical two minutes earlier, on freshman guard Obadiah Johnson, and Yarbray hit both attempts.
Johnson, from Largo, made eight of 14 shots en route to 19 points. His backcourt partner, Downs, had 10 points, but the Bears' transition game broke down at key stages. Fighting back to gain a tie at 44, Downs disdained an open lay-in and passed to a trailing teammate who missed, and Matthew Burrell missed a transition chance on Morgan State's next possession.
"I thought we could win that one," Morgan State coach Michael Holmes said. "We've just got to keep fighting."
Coppin State, which had a 46-34 advantage in rebounds, got eight apiece from center Coleman Scott and backup Kenyatta Massey. Massey also had a season-high seven points, including a dunk off a pass from Keith Carmichael during the deciding run.
MORGAN STATE (2-18, 2-7) -- Feagin 4-9 0-0 8, J. Smith 1-2 5-6 7, Burrell 2-5 1-6 5, Downs 4-8 2-3 10, Sellers 1-3 1-1 3, Ellet 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 8-14 2-3 19, K. Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Parker 3-9 0-3 6, Brewer 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 25-56 11-22 62.
COPPIN STATE (13-7, 7-3) -- Saunders 7-14 7-9 21, Scott 3-9 2-6 8, Goodman 1-5 0-0 2, Mazyck 2-8 6-6 10, Yarbray 1-2 3-4 5, Carmichael 3-8 2-2 9, Johnson 1-2 0-3 2, Woods 1-2 0-2 2, Robinson 1-1 0-0 2, Massey 2-4 3-6 7, Howard 0-1 2-4 2. Totals 22-56 25-42 70.
Halftime--Coppin St. 35, Morgan St. 32. 3-point goals--Morgan St. 1-8 (Johnson 1-4, Sellars 0-2, Downs 0-1, Parker 0-1), Coppin St. 1-10 (Carmichael 1-4, Mazyck 0-2, Goodman 0-2, Saunders 0-2). Fouled out--Morgan St. J. Smith, Burrell. Rebounds--Morgan St. 34 (Fagan 8), Coppin St. 46 (Saunders 11). Assists--Morgan St. 12 (Downs 4), Coppin St. 14 (Mazyck 4). Total fouls--Morgan St. 28, Coppin St. 19. Technicals--Morgan St. Johnson, Coppin St. Yarbray. A--1,131.