Coppin can't handle Arizona Eagles' 27 turnovers lead to 99-82 setback vs. defending champs

December 14, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Miles Simon and Mike Bibby had left the building along with 14,642 Arizona fans and the CBS cameras.

But Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell lingered behind yesterday afternoon in an empty McKale Center where his Eagles had been wiped out 45 minutes earlier, 99-82, by a powerful sixth-ranked Arizona squad.

Mitchell stared at the big blue words on the court that read "1997 National Champions" and he turned philosophical for the first time on a day the Eagles made history by being the first historically black school to appear on a major network in a regular-season game.

"It says national champions and we're just a little old school from North Avenue in Baltimore," Mitchell said.

"But we came here expecting to win against all odds in what I think is one of the most hostile environments in the nation. We didn't win because we did some things we normally don't do, like a lot of turnovers [27] and not maintaining the tempo."

Mitchell said Coppin (2-3) didn't come close to playing the

near-perfect game it needed to beat Arizona (7-2) on its home court.

In the past 10 years only two non-Pacific-10 teams (Syracuse and Arkansas) have won at McKale Center. Overall, Arizona has won 146 of its past 156 home games.

But Mitchell, Antoine Brockington and the Coppin players said they believed they could somehow find near-perfection against the likes of preseason All-Americans Simon and Bibby and other talented Arizona starters such as Michael Dickerson, A. J. Bramlett and Bennett Davison and super-sub Jason Terry.

Simon and Bibby were silent most of the first half but wound up with 15 and 12 points respectively, taking a back seat to Dickerson's 28 points. Terry had 10 points, 10 assists and six steals, and Bramlett added 17 points.

Brockington did rise to an incredible level of play early before collecting his second foul with 6: 36 left in the first half and sitting out the remainder of the half.

Brockington was 7-for-7 shooting from the field in the first half for 18 points, including three three-pointers.

He went on to score a career-high and game-high 32 .

Brockington hit a dazzling three-pointer during a 27-16 Coppin start came with 9: 54 left in the first half.

Brockington got the ball far out on the left side and went up for the shot all in one motion, sending a high-arcing shot over a couple of defenders that rolled around the rim and fell for a 17-15 lead.

"It was looking like Brockington was going to score 80 on us the way he started," said coach Lute Olson, who recorded his 350th victory at Arizona.

"He put on a show in the first 10 minutes but we did a better job keeping the ball out of his hands in the second half by double-teaming the ball."

Brockington said he entered the game even more focused and intense than he already was after reading a statement by Simon in a Tucson newspaper yesterday morning.

"I don't know who that is," said Simon on Friday when asked about Brockington.

Brockington made an impression yesterday, but it came with little consolation.

"I never thought we'd get blown out in this game like this," said Brockington. "I could see some fear in their faces when we cut it down to 66-62 but they slowed it down and turned everything around."

Coppin jumped to that first-half lead by making 11 of its first 14 field-goal attempts.

"I think we panicked a little bit," Davison said. "But we got it back together. It's our house."

Mitchell then faced a big decision when Brockington skidded through the lane and got called for the second foul with the Eagles leading, 29-24, with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half.

But Mitchell stuck to his usual team policy and kept Brockington out the remainder of the first half. The Wildcats then went on a 15-0 run as Dickerson and Bibby hit three-pointers, and Terry helped force seven turnovers, enabling Arizona to surge ahead of Coppin, which shot 74 percent in the half, by a 45-40 margin at halftime.

"I was tempted to put Antoine back in but as long as we were still in the game, I figured we would have a shot in the second half," Mitchell said.

Coppin did have one more chance to overcome the Wildcats' lead near the midway point of the second half, when Danny Singletary double-pumped in the lane for a 12-foot jumper to reduce the margin to 66-62 with 10: 59 remaining.

Moments after the Singletary shot, he went flying into the stands in an attempt to save an errant pass but came up empty, starting a game-turning 9-0 run for a 75-62 lead by the Wildcats that virtually put the outcome on ice with 8: 46 left.

TTC During that crucial 9-0 stretch, Singletary missed two layups and Brockington got hit in the face and didn't get down court to pick up Simon, who hit a three-pointer.

Singletary (15 points, three assists, three steals, seven turnovers) looked as if he tried to carry Coppin too much late in the game, causing him to force some shots.

"Yeah, I said to myself after I took a few shots today, maybe I shouldn't have taken that one," Singletary said. "But it was the all those second shots they got inside that killed us."

Fred Warrick also had an erratic day for Coppin, scoring 19 points but committing nine turnovers.

Pub Date: 12/14/97

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