Coppin State streaks past adversity, S.C. State Shaken, depleted team extends home string to 40 with 73-70 MEAC victory

February 23, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

What is it going to take to stop the nation's longest home-court winning streak?

On Monday, Coppin State got whipped at South Carolina State, and on the way home, the Eagles' psyches were shaken by a frightening jet incident. On Wednesday, their leading rebounder was suspended, and last night, against those same Bulldogs, Coppin State watched its top player get his fourth foul with 14:42 remaining.

All of those obstacles made the Eagles' 73-70 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference conquest of S.C. State before 2,596 as precious as any of the successes they have enjoyed during a Coppin Center streak that has reached 40 games.

"I can't remember the last time we had a conference win this satisfying," coach Fang Mitchell said. "We faced a lot of obstacles this week. There were a lot of young kids out there tonight, and they showed their character."

The outcome created a tie for first place in the MEAC, where both teams are 13-2. If both win their regular-season finales, they'll share the regular-season title, but S.C. State (18-7 overall) would get the No. 1 seed for next week's tournament on the basis of a greater point differential in their two meetings this week.

That's fine with Mitchell. The Eagles (16-9) still can make MEAC history with a share of their fourth straight regular-season title, and the No. 1 seed hasn't helped them one bit the past two years, anyway.

Coppin State, facing the prospect of suffering more MEAC losses in four days than it had in the previous three seasons, got 19 points from two first-year players, and Antoine Brockington stepped up when center Terquin Mott had to sit out most of the second half.

When Mott went out with his fourth foul, the Eagles had a 47-38 lead. The gap grew to 57-42 with 11 minutes left, but Coppin NTC State, which shot 65.2 percent in the second half, was exhausted by the effort it was expending. The Bulldogs went on a 12-2 run, and moved within 65-63 with 2:15 to go.

That's when point guard Allen Watson resettled Coppin State. ++ He rolled in a short jumper with 1:42 left for a 67-63 lead, then dished to freshman Jerel Seamon for a short bank shot. S.C. State got within 71-70, but Mott made two free throws with five seconds left, and Derrick Patterson's desperation 80-footer at the buzzer hit the backboard and bounced away.

"We didn't want to make the game out to be any bigger than it was, but everyone knew what was on the line," said Watson, who had nine points and seven assists. "We didn't mention the streak, but . . . it's still in the back of everyone's mind. No one wants to be on the team that ends it, and that made us play harder. It's been an incredible week."

Coppin State fell behind by 29 at S.C. State on Monday and lost by 12. The next afternoon, the jet the team was traveling on overshot a runway at National Airport in Washington, and freshman Rafi Reavis was hospitalized for stress.

Reavis played nine minutes last night, but the Eagles were without suspended junior forward Reggie Welch, who's averaging 17.3 points and 6.9 rebounds. Mitchell said Welch was suspended over "philosophical differences," but said he could return as early as tomorrow, when they conclude the regular season at home against Howard.

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