Coppin State feels right at home in 82-71 victory Welch's 31 help Eagles withstand N.C. A&T

January 07, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Year after year, Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell schedules some of the toughest non-conference opponents around in hopes that it will prepare his team for NCAA tournament play.

Last year, a two-point defeat to North Carolina A&T in the final of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament kept the Eagles from making it to the big dance.

Last night, Coppin got some revenge.

The Eagles topped the Aggies, 82-71, before 2,033 at the Coppin Center in their MEAC opener. It was Coppin's first home game since Dec. 18, and stretched its home winning streak to 34 games, longest in the nation. The victory also ended a five-game losing streak for the Eagles (4-7), who have been trekking around to Ball State, Iowa State and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"I was at that game in the tournament against the Aggies," junior forward Reggie Welch said. "I'll never forget that feeling. All I could think abut all summer was beating A&T."

Welch could only watch the MEAC tournament from the stands while sitting out a year after transferring from Cleveland State. But he was the difference last night.

Welch scored a game- and career-high 31 points, making five three-pointers, including one from the left baseline with less than six minutes remaining that gave the Eagles a 68-62 lead.

North Carolina A&T (2-7) stayed right with Coppin for much of the second half, but after Welch's fifth three-pointer, the Eagles maintained a double-digit lead and coasted to the win.

"That was a big shot," Mitchell said. "Up to that point, it had been a battle in the second half and neither team could outdo the other. After Reggie's shot, we began to pull away."

Welch, who went 0-for-9 from the field in Coppin's previous game, against Iowa State, started this one on a tear.

He scored 12 in the first 4:30, hitting his first four shots. He made a three from the right baseline and one from the top of the key. He posted up for two layups and hit two free throws to round out the effort.

"I could really feel it tonight," Welch said. "I have total confidence in my offense, and the coaching staff has confidence in me. My teammates have confidence to get the ball in my hands in clutch situations. I'm a shooter."

Welch slowed to a merely human pace when North Carolina A&T began giving him special attention, and the Eagles started turning the ball over. The Aggies took advantage of 13 first-half turnovers and got back in the game.

"You cannot be successful if you turn the ball over," Mitchell said. "Here at Coppin State, we don't do that. This is a new team, and they still have to learn that."

After opening the game on a 9-0 run and leading 15-5 three minutes in, the Eagles found themselves tied at 25 and then trailing 38-37 at the half.

NORTH CAROLINA A&T -- Chambers 1-1 1-1 3, Stewart 6-15 0-0 12, Knowlin 1-3 0-0 2, Beasley 3-7 2-2 8, Williams 1-3 1-2 3, Grey 3-8 0-0 8, Breazeale 1-1 0-0 2, Powell 6-9 3-3 15, Tucker 3-6 1-1 8, Stimpson 2-4 1-2 5, St. John 1-4 3-4 5. Totals 28-61 12-15 71.

COPPIN STATE -- Mott 5-5 3-4 13, King 1-5 0-0 3, Welch 11-17 4-4 31, Watson 2-7 7-8 12, Locke 1-2 0-0 3, Brockington 2-7 2-2 7, Seamon 1-2 0-0 2, Reavis 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 3-5 3-5 11, Pena 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-50 19-23 82.

Halftime--NC, 38-37. 3-point goals--NC 3-13 (Beasley 0-4, Williams 0-2, Grey 2-4, Tucker 1-3), Coppin 11-24 (King 1-3, Welch 5-9, Watson 1-4, Locke 1-2, Brockington 1-4, Lewis 2-2). Fouled out--0. Rebounds--NC 25 (Stewart 5), Coppin 31 (Welch 6). Assists--NC 15 (Williams 5), Coppin 21 (Watson 5). Total

fouls--NC 20, Coppin 19. A--2,033.

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