Coppin St. is perfect in MEAC UMES falls, 75-51

Eagles finish 16-0

February 28, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

They're deep, together and focused. Let the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament begin.

Coppin State completed its regular-season blitz of the MEAC last night, routing UMES, 75-51, before an appreciative homecoming crowd of 2,800 at the Coppin Center. It was the 12th straight victory for the Eagles.

Coppin State (19-7, 16-0) became only the second team in the 22-year history of the conference to complete the regular season unbeaten. If coach Fang Mitchell and company are interested in omens, they'll be pleased to know that North Carolina A&T, the only other team to go unbeaten in the conference, went on to win the MEAC tournament in 1988.

With the biggest first-place lead in MEAC history, Coppin State has known for two weeks that it will be the No. 1 seed for the tournament in Norfolk, Va. The Eagles will play either the No. 8 or No. 9 seed in Friday's quarterfinals. UMES (12-14, 7-9), with its best record in a decade, finished in sixth place for first-year coach Rob Chavez and will play Morgan State Thursday.

"They're a very determined team," Chavez said of Coppin State, which has climbed to the top of the MEAC despite having no seniors. "They want to kick your you know what. I don't see anybody in the conference being close to them."

Coppin State won 13 of its 16 conference games by more than 10 points. Last night was typical, as the Eagles put away an overmatched opponent early.

Mitchell learned earlier in the day that he had been named MEAC Coach of the Year. Following a dissension-riddled 1991-92 season, Coppin State adopted a team-first philosophy, and it was evident in the announcement of player honors. Sophomore forward Stephen Stewart was named Rookie of the Year, but junior forward Tariq Saunders, on the second team, was the only Eagle listed among the top 10 players.

"If anything, we are balanced," said Mitchell. "Any of the 10 people were using could start, and we're trying to fight against selfishness.

It's the third time in the last four years that Coppin State won the regular season, and Mitchell and Saunders, the only player left over from the 1991 team that was upset by Florida A&M in the MEAC semifinals, will remind his teammates that there's unfinished business.

"That's only the first half," Mitchell said of the regular-season title. "We've still got a second half to go."

Sophomore guard Keith Carmichael didn't score in the first half last night, but he hit five of the six three-pointers he tried in the second half en route to a game-high 17 points. Point guard Sidney Goodman and Stewart had 13 and 12, respectively, as both shot 5-for-8 from the field. Stewart also had a game-high 10 rebounds, helping Coppin State to a 42-28 edge.

Junior college transfers Zack Allison and Dale Harrison led UMES with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Senior center Mike Harris had eight points and eight rebounds.

The Eagles made no doubt of their intentions, streaking to a 20-2 lead after 13 minutes. UMES outscored Coppin State 17-12 over the rest of the half and drew within 34-23 with 17:11 left on Harrison's driving basket, but the next six minutes saw the Eagles drop in five three-pointers, three by Carmichael, during a 19-4 run that boosted the spread to 53-27. The difference reached 60-31.

The fans who stayed until the end saw freshman guard Cameron Nekkers score his first basket of the year -- a three-pointer with four seconds left.

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