When an unbeaten conference team boasting the best defense plays the team with the worst offense, the results are all but inevitable.
So it was hardly surprising that Coppin State rolled to its 30th straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory, over Florida A&T, 99-47, at the Coppin Center last night. In recording their most lopsided win of the season, the Eagles (17-7, 11-0) also extended their nation-high Division I winning streak to 11, their 19th straight at home.
Coppin has not lost since losing a non-conference game Jan. 2 to Boston College, 90-64.
Junior forward Stephen Stewart led the Eagles with 17 points and nine rebounds.
When someone mentioned that even if the Eagles sweep their remaining five conference games, they still could be denied an NCAA berth if they fail to win their conference tournament, coach Fang Mitchell said: "There is no need for us to worry about that now. We've just got to keep taking care of business and worrying about our next opponent, Bethune-Cookman."
The Eagles' past seven victories have been by an average of 23 points.
"We were struggling earlier in the season," Mitchell said. "But our captains -- Stewart and Sidney Goodman -- called the team together on our Florida trip last month, and that changed things. The players started thinking 'we' instead of 'I.' "
This was evident last night with the Eagles displaying excellent balance in shooting 63 percent from the field. Six players scored in double figures, including reserve center Mario McGriff, who contributed 13 points in 15 minutes.
"Our offense was created by our aggressive defense," said Mitchell, noting that the Rattlers shot 34 percent from the field, 26 percent in the second half when they were outscored 57-19.
Coppin seemingly turned it on at will, leading 42-28 at halftime and putting it out of reach with a 13-0 spurt for a 57-30 bulge early in the second half.
For the Rattlers, save for sophomore guard Byron Coast (14 points), no one shot with any consistency.
The Rattlers (4-17, 2-9), under new coach Ron Brown, have won only two conference games, both against Morgan.
They gained a 4-2 lead before the Eagles ran off 10 straight, including three-pointers by Goodman and Kyle Locke.
Florida A&M, shooting 36 percent for the season, continued to struggle against the swarming Coppin defense. Coast ended a lengthy scoring famine with a layup before the Eagles went on a 9-0 spree to boost their advantage to 21-6 after 8 minutes.
Better ball movement by the Rattlers led to open shots, trimming the deficit to 22-15. Stewart nipped this rally with an acrobatic layup.
McGriff came off the bench to contribute seven points and give Coppin a 36-23 cushion.
Stewart and Goodman combined to boost the lead to 42-26 before Coast made a three-pointer to end the first-half scoring.
Stewart led Coppin with 15 points and five rebounds.