Pitt closes out Coppin with 14-2 run, 76-70 win

December 28, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The setting changed, but the disappointing script remained intact for Coppin State last night at Fitzgerald Field House.

The Eagles led another big-time team until the final 1 1/2 minutes and dropped yet another heart-breaker, this time to Pittsburgh, 76-70.

Pitt (7-2) scored 14 of the final 16 points to practically re-enact Coppin's loss at Missouri, which went on a 10-0 run at the finish to edge the Eagles, 64-63.

Coppin has also suffered narrow defeats to Washington State (57-55) and Virginia (63-61).

"Deep in our hearts, we know we're just as good as these kinds of teams," said Eagles forward Stephen Stewart. "If we were playing these games for 35 or 36 minutes, we'd be 6-0 against major schools.

"Every game we're right with them, but there are always one or two things at the end that get us. We just didn't execute on the defensive end."

Coach Fang Mitchell agreed.

"We're going to have to step it up and be a lot tougher down the stretch," he said. "We played for 37 minutes. Now we're going to have to find 40.

"The team has to grow from these situations and understand the type of pressure we're going to be under. That last step is a big one."

Point guard Jerry McCullough paced the Panthers' drive through the stretch, making a key steal of Stewart's pass intended for Keith Carmichael and driving for a layup that gave Pitt its first lead, 70-68.

"We didn't have any designed play there," said Stewart. "I justthrew a bad pass and he [McCullough] made the right decision."

McCullough then made four straight free throws to put it away.

Coppin (5-6) had Pitt's offense disoriented early and took command by 14-4 when Carmichael (game-high 26 points) made two straight three-pointers.

The Panthers stayed back in a zone for most of the half, and Carmichael capitalized with 16 first-half points.

After weathering one run, the Eagles regained a sizable lead at 30-21 before Pitt finally found some outside shooting to close to within 30-27 at the break.

Combined, the two teams went 17-for-66 from the field in the first half and the Panthers missed all eight of their three-point tries.

"We came right back aggressively early in the game," said Mitchell. "I can call all the timeouts in the world later, but it boils down to the fact that we have to stop the scoring.

"In the stretch, you could feel their intensity level rise. Ours didn't. But you can't complain if you have a bunch of guys who aren't quitters.

"If we keeping putting these players in these situations, we're going to get over the hump."

The Eagles had a 68-62 edge with 2:32 to play when Orlando Antigua and Sotiris Aggelou both drained vital three-pointers for Pitt to set up McCullough's late heroics.

"We knew Coppin State wasn't a lousy team," said Panther center Eric Mobley, who was rationed to six points by strong team defense. "On the films, they showed us that if we got the ball down low, they'd collapse. They had everyone a little out of sync in the first half."

Now if only the Eagles can prolong their power for a few more minutes. That final roadblock is still ahead.

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