Coppin subdues Fla. A&M

January 24, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

With six minutes left in the first half last night, Coppin State forward Stephen Stewart had produced only two points and scowls of frustration, as he repeatedly demanded that his teammates get him the ball.

Once the Eagles started feeding Stewart, visiting Florida A&M never had a chance.

Stewart scored 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds -- both career-highs -- and the Eagles turned up the defensive pressure on the upset-minded Rattlers midway through the first half, as Coppin State pulled away to a 91-70 victory at the Coppin Center.

The victory extended Coppin State's home winning streak to 25 games, fourth best in the country and tops in school history. It also marks the first time the Eagles have hit the .500 mark, putting Coppin (8-8, 5-1) atop the MEAC standings for the first time this season. The Eagles have won five straight and eight of their past 11.

"Today, he looked like he was back, like the way he played last year," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said of Stewart, the reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year who has struggled lately, especially at the offensive end.

"If he starts to play well for us, we'll be very tough. Confidence is so important," Mitchell added. "Tonight was a sign of us having a flow in the game for a change. We're starting to get that momentum going."

No one had it going like Stewart last night. In Coppin State's new three-guard alignment, the Eagles' 6-foot-5 senior forward needs to rebound more, and Stewart responded in kind. On offense, he used his strength inside for most of his points and earned 10 trips to the foul line, where he converted eight. He also hit two three-pointers.

Stewart did the majority of his damage as Coppin State put down the feisty Rattlers (3-14, 0-7) with a 12-4 run at the end of the first half, then put them away midway through the second half. The Eagles held Florida A&M to 33 percent shooting in the second half.

After a relatively quiet start, Stewart scored nine points in the final six minutes of the first half to lead a 16-6 run that gave the Eagles a 46-37 halftime lead. He was unstoppable in the second half, scoring 18 of the Eagles' first 22 points, as Coppin State took a commanding 68-50 lead with 10:53 left.

"I've been waiting for this," Stewart said. "I'm the inside guy now, and I have to establish the inside. When we play off of me, we're a better team."

ka,3 Coming off its worst offensive showing of the season, a 55-47 victory over Bethune-Cookman, Coppin State had little trouble scoring from the outset. Then again, Florida A&M looked nothing like a winless MEAC team. The Rattlers traded baskets with Coppin State for the first 12 minutes, as the score was tied at 28 with 8:20 to play in the first half.

Keith Carmichael (18 points) got the Eagles started early, hitting his first four three-point attempts.

Florida A&M countered with its own shooting exhibition in the form of junior guard Byron Coast. He scored eight of the Rattlers' 10 points during one stretch, and his second three-pointer of the half gave Florida A&M a 21-20 lead with just under 13 minutes left in the half.

Soon after that, Coppin State switched from a zone defense to a man-to-man alignment, and the Eagles' pressure began to wear on Florida A&M. The Rattlers would take one more lead at 31-30 before Coppin State slowly took control.

Stewart sparked a 16-6 run by Coppin State over the final six minutes by erupting for nine points. His three-point play put the Eagles in front, 33-31. A short jumper, two free throws and a layup by Stewart helped the Eagles pull away to a 46-37 halftime lead.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.