Eagles have landed: Coppin wins City school puts itself on NCAA map, ousting No. 2 seed S. Carolina

March 15, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

PITTSBURGH -- Of the more than 17,000 fans who filled the Pittsburgh Civic Arena last night, many had never heard of Coppin State. Had no idea where the tiny school was from. And no clue that the Coppin band playing fight songs actually consisted of "rented" students -- from rival Morgan State.

The fans loved them anyway, cheering "Let's go, Eagles, let's go, Eagles" as 15th-seeded Coppin State pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history with yesterday's 78-65 win over second-seeded and sixth-ranked South Carolina in a first-round East Regional game.

The win was just the third time that a No. 15 seed defeated a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. And the win by the Eagles (22-8) sent shock waves through the college basketball world on a day that 14th-seeded Tennessee-Chattanooga also defeated No. 3 seed Georgia.

It also marked the first time that a team from Baltimore had won a Division I NCAA tournament game.

"This has to go down as one of the most major, major wins in my life," said Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell, whose team defeated a ranked Division I opponent for the first time in the school's history. "When we started this trip, we had a lot of guys that didn't realize how big this could be for them. Some of them felt it was just good to get to the tournament.

"But in the last practice before we got here, their attitude changed," Mitchell added. "They started believing in themselves."

The Eagles were able to celebrate because they never backed down from a South Carolina team that finished with the best regular-season record in the Southeastern Conference (15-1), and a team that twice beat Kentucky this season.

Guards Danny Singletary (22 points) and Antoine Brockington (20) together outscored the South Carolina first-team All-SEC guard trio of BJ McKie (16 points), Melvin Watson (13 points) and Larry Davis (two points).

"Their guards are good, but we're pretty good also," said Singletary, who hit eight of 14 shots.

Coppin will play 10th-seeded Texas in tomorrow's second-round game at 4: 50 p.m.

Pub Date: 3/15/97

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