MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Coppin State ended a weary week on the road in the Big Eight Conference with a gutty, inspired effort last night, but the Eagles still will board a plane for Baltimore today in search of their first victory.
Unlike their first two lopsided losses last week at Kansas and Missouri, though, the Eagles found themselves in a crunch-time battle with Kansas State. But after never trailing for the game's first 34 minutes, the Eagles wilted down the stretch, scoring only 10 points in the final 11 minutes, as Kansas State rallied for a
66-56 victory before 9,882 at Bramlage Coliseum.
The loss left the Eagles at 0-5, their worst start since coach Fang Mitchell's first season at Coppin eight years ago. This defeat was more reminiscent of the Eagles' first two defeats, close losses to Oklahoma and St. John's, when Coppin State faltered in the final minutes.
"This is one of those games we really had. We played a good game for 35 or 36 minutes," said Coppin State forward Stephen Stewart, who scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds. "Down the stretch, we stopped executing. I missed a few key foul shots. We have to look within ourselves and find out what the problem is."
Last night, the problems mushroomed in the second half. The Eagles, after taking excellent care of the ball while taking a 34-32 halftime lead, committed 11 second-half turnovers. After hitting open shots for much of the evening, the Eagles started missing when it counted the most.
Coppin State managed only 10 points after senior guard Sidney Goodman hit a 12-foot bank shot that gave the Eagles a 46-41 lead with 10:41 to play. And Stewart scored all 10 points.
Meanwhile, Kansas State (4-2) regrouped at the game's critical point. After Goodman's shot, the Wildcats went on a 25-10 run, which included a 14-5 run after Stanley Hamilton's layup gave Kansas State its first lead, 52-51, with 6:07 to go.
Stewart answered with an eight-footer to put the Eagles back in front 53-52, but Coppin State would never lead again. A short jumper by forward Tyrone Davis and a jam by Belvis Noland -- after a turnover by Goodman -- put the Wildcats on top 56-53, prompting Mitchell to call a timeout with 4:40 left.
The Wildcats finished the job at the foul line, converting eight foul shots, while all the Eagles could muster was a three-pointer by Stewart.
"You can't turn the ball over down the stretch. It seemed like we lost our composure down the stretch. Those are distasteful turnovers," Mitchell said. "But I was proud of the way we played tonight. We rebounded better than we've been rebounding, and we defended better."
Mitchell tried a new, three-guard alignment, starting Kyle Locke and bringing center Mario McGriff off the bench. The lineup produced mixed results.
The Eagles, facing a team not quite as big as Kansas or Missouri, were still pushed around underneath, where the Wildcats had a 36-23 rebounding edge, including 14-4 at the offensive end.
It didn't help matters that forward Michael Thomas and McGriff continued to struggle, producing just two points and six rebounds, while drawing nine fouls.
Thomas fouled out for the third straight game.
Hamilton hurt Coppin State the most on the glass, as he collected most of his 17 points off seven offensive rebounds. Forward Tyrone Davis also hurt the Eagles inside late, scoring 14 of his team-high 18 points in the second half.
"The game is decided in the first and last five minutes. If you can't score down the stretch, you can't get the victory," Goodman said.
"We have to go back home, regroup and stay together as a team. We're all hungry. We've been on the road for a week and we really wanted this one."
Goodman did his part, leading the Eagles with 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting to become the third Coppin State player to go over the 1,000-point career mark on this road trip.
He scored 17 in the first half, when he hit all six of his shots. He also added five assists and two steals.
Despite the loss, Mitchell remained upbeat. "We'll learn from this, like we learned at Kansas and Missouri," he said.
"We're not afraid to play anybody. Where else do we get experience like we got tonight? We've got more experiences to go. And we've got some victories ahead."