Eleven months ago, Morgan State salvaged a season filled with losses by ruining Coppin State's outstanding year with the most stunning upset in the history of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.
Last night, in this season's first meeting between Baltimore's cross-town MEAC rivals, Coppin State reminded the Bears who still rules this league. And, despite an effort that was far from its sharpest, Coppin State suffocated the Bears with defense and pulled away to a 67-42 victory before 2,889 at Coppin Center.
"That was ugly basketball. We just didn't concentrate. We came out too hyped for the game. We made it bigger than it was supposed to be," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said.
"We definitely threw the ball away too much. We were emotionally drunk today. But it's a tribute to our guys to come out with a 25-point victory without ever getting into any rhythm."
The Eagles stumbled all night, committing 21 turnovers, equaling their season-high. They missed 20 of 25 three-point shots and hit only 37.5 percent of their attempts overall. And they went through a scoreless stretch of seven minutes in the first half.
Still, after staging a 10-0 run to take a 16-11 lead over the Bears six minutes into the contest, Coppin State never trailed. The Eagles, paced by senior forward Stephen Stewart's game-high 17 points and eight rebounds, took control of the game early in the second half and pulled away to a 48-30 lead with 8:09 remaining.
The Eagles won with a trapping, pressing, man-to-man defense that destroyed the Bears' offense, forcing 26 turnovers and holding Morgan State to just 17 baskets in 54 attempts. Morgan State also put the Eagles on the foul line 28 times. Coppin State converted 20 attempts, or 78.6 percent.
The formula was good enough to help the Eagles (11-8, 8-1) earn their eighth straight victory, maintain their first-place standing in the MEAC, and record their 27th consecutive home victory, the second-longest streak in the nation.
"We were just too emotional out there," said Stewart, who drew a technical foul early in the game for arguing that he was fouled on a no-call.
"I tried to downplay this game all day, but as soon as I saw them [Morgan State] on the court, it [last year's loss] all came back to me. At this stage of the season, we want to make progress. We don't want to win ugly.
"They [Morgan] punched us last year. We only smacked them tonight."
The Eagles made up for their lack of artistry with hustle and workmanship. They manhandled Morgan State on the boards, grabbing 42 rebounds to the Bears' 31, including a 15-8 bulge at the offensive end.
"We're not doing the small things that make great things happen," said Morgan State coach Lynn Ramage, whose Bears (3-17, 3-6) lost their fourth straight.
"We have a tough time playing with a lead. We're just lacking discipline. They [Coppin] capitalized on their opportunities. As usual, they did what they had to do to win."
Morgan State's 42-point production marked its lowest output since losing, 60-40, to Clemson early in the season.
Morgan State never got untracked on offense, thanks largely to Coppin State's half-court traps, which forced many of the Bears' 16 first-half turnovers.
Still, the Bears had the first word. Terrence Wright scored six points in the opening minutes to lead Morgan State to an 11-6 lead. Jerard Rucker's two free throws, courtesy of a technical foul called on Stewart, capped the opening run.
From there, Morgan State went into a scoreless funk for the next 9:15. During that stretch, the Bears committed seven turnovers and missed eight shots. Coppin State took advantage of the drought by scoring 10 unanswered points to take a 16-11 lead with 14:15 left in the half. Three-pointers by Keith Carmichael and Sidney Goodman fueled the run.
But the Eagles missed an opportunity to put Morgan State early by going into their own shooting slump, which resulted in a scoreless streak of more than seven minutes. A dunk by Michael Thomas broke the spell at the 7:18 mark, giving Coppin State an 18-11 lead.
The Eagles extended their lead to 25-15 with 4:45 left on Kyle Locke's layup, but Morgan State, capitalizing on sloppy ball-handling by the Eagles, cut the margin to 27-22 in the closing seconds on Paul Grant's fast-break layup. Allen Watson made a three-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Eagles a 30-22 halftime lead.
MORGAN STATE -- Deas 3-7 0-0 7, James 2-4 1-2 5, Smith 1-2 0-0 2, Wright 4-10 0-0 8, Rucker 1-4 2-2 5, McCarthy 0-1 0-0 0, Zellous 1-5 2-2 5, Grant 2-5 0-1 4, Hunter 1-3 0-0 2, Thomas 0-2 0-0 0, Holmes 0-3 0-0 0, Battle 2-8 0-0 4, Bailey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-54 5-7 42.
COPPIN STATE -- Carmichael 4-11 1-2 12, Stewart 6-13 5-10 17, McGriff 0-1 0-0 0, Goodman 1-5 4-5 7, Watson 2-2 0-0 5, Robinson 0-3 0-0 0, Locke 1-6 0-0 2, Saunders 4-11 5-5 13, Thomas 3-4 4-4 10, Nicholas 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 21-56 20-28 67.
Halftime--Coppin State 30-22. 3-point goals--M 3-17 (Zellous 1-2, Rucker 1-2, Deas 1-3, James 0-1, Smith 0-1, McCarthy 0-1, Thomas 0-1, Holmes 0-1, Battle 0-5); C 5-25 (Carmichael 3-8, Watson 1-1, Goodman 1-2, Robinson 0-1, Locke 0-5, Saunders 0-5). Rebounds--M 31 (Battle, Hunter, Wright 5); C 42 (Stewart 8). Assists--M 6 (Zellous, Wright 2); C 8 (Watson 4). Total fouls--M 24; C 11. Fouled out--none. Technicals--C (Stewart). A--2,889.