Coppin St. hauls down Bethune-Cookman

January 20, 1995|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

The winners find a way.

An offensive slump forced Coppin State to do just that last night, and the Eagles equaled their longest home winning streak ever with a 55-47 triumph over Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival Bethune-Cookman.

It was the 24th straight victory at the Coppin Center for the Eagles, who were involved in their lowest-scoring game since the MEAC championship contest of 1990, when North Carolina A&T's slowdown failed to beat them in a 54-50 game.

Coppin (7-8, 4-1) looked every bit like a team ripe for an upset. Only Sidney Goodman's 14 points kept its deficit within two (26-24) at the half, and only Michael Thomas' shot-blocking prowess kept the Wildcats from running away from the Eagles early in the second half.

Bethune-Cookman pulled away to a 34-24 cushion as Coppin endured more than seven minutes without a point and almost eight without a field goal until Goodman drilled a three-pointer.

During this span, Thomas, the MEAC Player of the Week last week, swatted away four shot attempts to prevent the Wildcats from getting out of range.

"Our defense kept us in the game," said Coppin coach Ron (Fang) Mitchell. "Thomas clogged up the middle and helped out in there all night.

"Then they [Coppin players] showed they still understand how to find a way. It's a tribute to them that we can play as bad as we did and still win."

The ending was particularly vindicating for Stephen Stewart, who sat on the bench for the final 16 minutes of the first half after displeasing Mitchell.

"He and I both know what our main objective is," said Stewart. "There was a reason I was one on the bench [Mitchell said it was attitudinal]. But once it got tight, I wanted to be in there."

The second-half pattern worsened for the Eagles when they committed four turnovers, went 0-for-7 from the floor and did not score while Thomas was showing his shot-rejecting talents.

But two dunks by Thomas, one on a feed from Stewart, enabled Coppin to turn around the momentum midway through the second half.

With the score tied at 42, Keith Carmichael sank the first of his two three-pointers in the closing minutes and Stewart hit a three with the 35-second clock about to expire.

With 1:21 to play, Stewart followed by muscling through a double-team to score a layup and hit the resultant free throw for a seven-point lead.

"I don't know; our confidence level is not where it should be," said Mitchell. "We're better players, better shooters than we're showing. I expected this to be a tough game, but a high-scoring tough game, not like this."

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