Coppin tops Delaware State, 75-57 Saunders beats flu, scores 18 for Eagles

February 11, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

For Coppin State's Tariq Saunders, the biggest challenge going into last night's game against Delaware State was keeping secret from coach Fang Mitchell that he had the flu.

"The trainer knew, but I didn't want [Mitchell] to find out," said Saunders, who watched teammate Kyle Locke sit out the Morgan game on Monday with the flu. "I didn't worry about how I was feeling. I was worrying about how I played."

No one would have thought Saunders was sick from watching his performance last night. He scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds, as Coppin State defeated Delaware State, 75-57, before a crowd of 925 at the Coppin Center.

The win extended Coppin's winning streak to eight games and gave the Eagles an 11-0 record in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Coppin (14-7 overall) won for the 12th time in the past 13 games.

Delaware State dropped to 8-12 overall and 4-7 in the MEAC. It was the second loss to Coppin in less than a week for the Hornets.

Playing 28 minutes, Saunders hit five of nine field-goal tries -- including two three-pointers. Twelve of his points came in the first half, but his biggest shot was a three-pointer with 5:58 left after Delaware State had cut the lead to seven points.

"I felt pretty good. I think I sweated a lot of the sickness out of me," said Saunders, who has led Coppin in scoring in three of the past four games and rebounding in four of the past five.

It was just another ho-hum game for the Eagles, who have won their 11 league games by an average of 16.9 points. Mitchell was left shaking his head, trying to explain a less-than-spirited performance by the Eagles, despite an 18-point win. "It was a terrible game," Mitchell said. "It was one of those games that didn't have a flow. The only flow was after they had come back."

Delaware State's comeback came after the Hornets trailed by 15 points at the half. The Eagles, who have been hurting opponents with their three-point shooting all season, began to feel the sting of the Hornets' three-point shooting.

First Delaware State guard Phil Anderson made three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt to cut the lead to 50-35.

During the next five minutes, four of Delaware State's next five field goals were from three-point range -- the last by sophomore guard Andrew Miles that brought the Hornets to 56-49 with 6:32 left. But a three-pointer by Saunders again gave the Eagles a double-digit lead, 59-49.

From there, Coppin was not threatened, ending the game with a 26-8 run that gave the Eagles their 12th win over Delaware State in the past 14 games between the schools.

"When they got to seven [points behind], our guys really sucked it up," Mitchell said. "Our guys just have to understand that they have to play hard every night."

That's because Coppin is once again the team everyone in the league is shooting for, which is a surprise to everyone. Coppin went into last night's game as the worst shooting team in the league (39.1 percent from the field). But, despite shooting 27.6 percent from the field in the second half (eight of 29), the Eagles -- the league's best defensive team -- were able to win in a rout.

"It's a credit to him and a credit to the types of kids he has in the program, that he's where he's at today with this team," Delaware State coach Jeff Jones said. "I never thought he'd do this well with this team. At the beginning of the year, I thought 11-5, or 12-4, would win the league."

Coppin will try to remain perfect in the MEAC during a two-game trip to Florida, which begins at Florida A&M on Saturday. Only one team in the history of the MEAC has gone undefeated, North Carolina A&T (16-0) in 1986-87.

"I like Fang, but I don't think it's going to happen," Jones said. "It's going to be real hard to do. But regardless of what happens, this is the best coaching job I've ever seen from Fang."

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