Down 19, Coppin avoids fast exit MEAC top seed Eagles outlast UMES in OT, 90-88

March 06, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF tTC

NORFOLK, Va. -- The Eagles almost didn't land where they wanted.

Faced with the prospect of a shocking, first-round exit from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament, top-seeded Coppin State gathered itself just in time and nudged inspired Maryland-Eastern Shore, 90-88, in overtime yesterday at Norfolk State.

Coppin (19-8) had to overcome a 19-point second-half deficit. It took a six-point lead with a 34-9 run, then fought off repeated comeback runs by plucky UMES, the ninth seed, which had to win at Howard on Monday in a play-in game to even arrive here.

The Fighting Hawks were sharp after absorbing two losses to regular-season champion Coppin, the second by 18 points less than a week ago.

"I think sometimes it's hard to penetrate people when they've had success against a team," said Eagles coach Fang Mitchell. "I expected a tough game from the start. I understood the intensity level they could have against us."

UMES (11-17) was on its game at the start, hitting its first nine shots and surging ahead by 17 (26-9) before the game was 10 minutes old. The Hawks were drilling three-pointers in transition and scoring on put-backs against taller, stronger Coppin.

By halftime, when they were up by 41-29, the Hawks had made four of six threes and shot 57 percent overall from the field.

"We looked them dead in the eye and went toe to toe with them," Hawks coach Lonnie Williams said.

Backup point guard Danny Singletary was the spark in Coppin's big run, scoring 13 of the Eagles' 34 points, including two free throws that culminated the streak and put his team ahead, 65-59.

Although the Hawks never again led in regulation, they were gritty and resilient, particularly Cryhten Langhorne (24 points), whose three-pointer with three seconds to go forced the overtime.

"They just kept on coming," said Singletary (game-high 29 points). "That wasn't a team that was going to give up until the last buzzer. It proves there are no first- and last-place teams in the tournament. Everybody wants to win."

Coppin surged ahead, 88-81, in overtime, only to have UMES rally yet again, twice closing to within a point before Reggie Welch (22 points, 14 rebounds) hit a free throw with seven seconds to go and the Coppin defense forced the Hawks into a hurry-up final shot.

"We came in with a good game plan," Williams said. "We zoned them because we don't have the beef up front to stay with [Terquin] Mott and [Kareem] Lewis, and it worked for us."

Mitchell said he did not scold his team at the half.

"Their [UMES'] will to win was extremely high and they didn't have anything to lose," said Mitchell. "But I'm happy because we didn't quit on ourselves. Down 19 with 16 minutes left, we showed a lot of character."

Pub Date: 3/06/97

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