Coppin State wins 15th straight

February 26, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

Coppin State erased a piece of a bitter memory last night at Hill Fieldhouse.

A year ago, Morgan State ended the Eagles' season by handing them the biggest upset in the history of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.

The Eagles, who expect to spend three days at Morgan State this week in the MEAC tournament, closed out their regular season by getting comfortable in the Bears' gym with a 90-63 victory before 4,018.

Coppin State (18-8, 15-1) won its 15th straight game to keep up the second-longest winning streak in the country. And they did it with the same dominant edge that has characterized their march through the MEAC over the past month.

The Eagles, who have won their past seven games by an average of 19 points, have gone 47-1 against the MEAC in the past three regular seasons.

"It felt kind of funny at first, being in the gym. It brought back some memories," said senior guard Sidney Goodman, who scored 13 points but had his foul-shooting streak end at 27. "That loss really hurt us last year. We don't take anything lightly now. We're at a peak now, where we're playing well as a team and we're going into the tournament with a positive attitude."

Like last year, Coppin State will enter the MEAC tournament as the top seed. Unlike last year, the Eagles will not face Morgan State in the quarterfinals. The Bears (5-21, 5-11), the seventh-place team in the conference, will play second-seeded South Carolina State in the first round.

The Eagles will open the quarterfinals against the winner of Wednesday night's Delaware State-Florida A&M play-in game. The only way Coppin State will see Morgan State again this year is if both teams meet in the tournament title game on Saturday.

Judging by last night's showing, that scenario is improbable. The Eagles, who trounced Morgan State by 25 points four weeks ago, put the Bears away early in the second half with their typically sticky defense and outstanding balance on offense.

Five players scored in double figures for the Eagles, who were led by senior center Michael Thomas. He scored 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting, including four dunks. While Thomas and senior forwards Stephen Stewart (10 points) and Tariq Saunders (14 points) were controlling the inside, Goodman and senior guard Keith Carmichael hurt Morgan outside.

Carmichael scored 15 points, making three three-pointers.

The Eagles, who shot 53.4 percent from the field and made PTC seven of 16 three-point attempts, also hurt Morgan State with rebounding. Although no one had more than five rebounds for them, the Eagles out-rebounded the Bears by 36-24.

"We looked at this like the beginning of the tournament," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said. "I was pleased with how we performed as a team, the way we looked for one another and looked for the extra man. I feel like I did last year, as far as confidence is concerned. I don't think I have to do a lot of talking."

The only time Mitchell talked louder than usual last night was midway through the first half, when he called a timeout after Coppin State let an 11-6 lead slip away and found itself with an 18-13 deficit.

The Eagles responded to Mitchell's tongue-lashing by scoring 13 unanswered points -- including seven by reserve guard Kyle Locke -- to take a 26-18 lead with 7:35 left in the half. The Eagles led 36-28 at the break.

The Eagles then gradually blew the game open. Sparked by Stewart-- fresh off his second straight MEAC Player of the Year award -- Coppin opened up a 53-40 lead with 12 minutes left. The Bears scored seven straight points to cut the lead to 53-47, as guard Damian Zellous (12 points) made four free throws to highlight the run.

But the Eagles answered with a 17-3 burst over the next four minutes to squelch any thoughts of another Morgan State upset. During the run, Carmichael hit two three-pointers and scored eight points, and Thomas punctuated the stretch with two slams. His final dunk gave the Eagles a 70-50 lead with six minutes left.

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