Nixon steps up, carrying UMBC by Coppin, 76-68

December 10, 1992|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

Until Sonique Nixon raised his hand in the second half an asked to be counted, it seemed that no one wanted to win between Coppin State and UMBC, two teams going through early-season identity crises.

The Retrievers trailed by eight points five minutes into the second half when Nixon, their junior center, began to assert himself. He scored 11 points during a seven-minute span in which UMBC (2-1) outscored the Eagles 18-7, and the visitors went on to a 76-68 victory at the Coppin Center last night.

Nixon, a second team All-East Coast Conference choice last season, was sat down three minutes into the game with two fouls. When he returned with seven minutes left in the first half, he revived the Retrievers with three straight baskets, and he was a major presence in the second half, when UMBC rallied for its first-ever win on Coppin State's campus.

Nixon finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks. His three-point play with 9:55 left gave the Retrievers a 54-53 lead, their first of the second half. Coppin State (0-3) was within 60-59 on Stephen Stewart's basket with 6:44 left, but Nixon's defensive work was a big reason the Eagles were able to get only one field goal the next six minutes.

"When they're trying to come inside, that's my paint they're invading," Nixon said. "It wasn't only me playing defense down the stretch, it was everyone."

Coach Earl Hawkins, who said earlier that Nixon wasn't seeking the ball as well as he did a year ago, hopes it was a breakthrough for his team. Last night was probably the only toss-up on its December schedule, as the Retrievers' previous win was over Washington College, and they figure to get another win over a Division III foe Saturday at home against St. Mary's. UMBC opened with a 103-80 loss at Maryland, and it won't be favored at Syracuse (Dec. 15) or Florida State (Dec. 28).

Coppin State, meanwhile, squandered what might have been its best chance to win this month. It got 26 points and eight rebounds from junior forward Tariq Saunders and 16 points from Keith Carmichael, but their teammates were a collective six of 33 from the field.

Nixon was backed by sophomore forward Artie Walker, who had career highs of 15 points and nine rebounds, and junior guard Skip Saunders added 13 points.

Both hit key three-pointers down the stretch. The Retrievers overcame 10-of-24 shooting at the free-throw line, as a 49-49 rebound ledger marked the first time in seven Division I meetings between the schools that Coppin State didn't dominate.

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