Coppin hits dead end, raises ire of Mitchell Loss to 1-8 Sam Houston 'one of biggest downers'

December 29, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

OKLAHOMA CITY -- After flirting with big-time basketball success on the road for five weeks, the Coppin State basketball team ran out of gas last night.

The sluggish Eagles might have receded to their lowest ebb in 12 years under Fang Mitchell with a 64-59 loss to Sam Houston State in the consolation game of the All-College Tournament at the Myriad Center.

Coppin (3-6) didn't look at all like the same team that had outplayed defending national champion Arizona for 30 minutes earlier this month or the squad that beat Missouri in Columbia and took Iowa State to overtime in Ames before losing in early December. Or even the team that had played Oklahoma tough in an 83-72 loss here the night before.

Against Sam Houston State of the Southland Conference, the Eagles seemed to go through the motions at times. The Bearkats entered the game with a 1-8 record, apparently sending visions of an easy victory running through the heads of the Coppin players.

"Any kind of sickness we had was in our brains," Mitchell said in response to a question about any of his players being ill. "We took things for granted and we go home feeling embarrassed and a lack of pride in ourselves. This is probably one of the biggest downers since I've been coaching here."

Mitchell said the reason for Coppin's flat showing last night was "immaturity which feeds the brain. I feel no sympathy toward any of our players right now. I'm upset with them all. We played to the level of our competition. That wasn't a very good team we played."

In defense of the Eagles, they have been on the road for what has seemed like a lifetime and they did come into this tournament with high expectations of winning the championship.

Oklahoma and Alabama were both considered beatable teams for Coppin. But the North Avenue school never got past Oklahoma on Saturday night, after leading often in the first 28 minutes.

There just didn't appear to be any enthusiasm for playing a team with the name of "Sam Houston State" on its jerseys.

Only senior All-America candidate Antoine Brockington and junior center Dorian Pena seemed ready to play last night.

Brockington, the lone Eagle named to the all-tournament first team, had 30 points and six steals. He hit three of 10 three-point tries, but his teammates were 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.

Pena, 6 feet 6, battled for a game-high 10 rebounds, blocked three shots, made two steals and had four points.

However, Brockington and Pena couldn't overcome the inspired Sam Houston combination of senior guard Mike Dillard and his freshman backcourt mate Jeremy Burkhalter, who teamed for 48 points.

Dillard scored 26 points in 28 minutes, hitting five of nine three-pointers, and Burkhalter had 22 points in 33 minutes, pouring in four of five threes. The two Bearkats combined for 31 points in the second half to lead their team back from a 29-21 halftime deficit.

But it wasn't until there was 3: 33 left that Sam Houston State finally went ahead, 57-56, on a three-pointer by Dillard that he hit while falling to the floor.

After that, Coppin was hurt by an air ball by Danny Singletary and a couple of turnovers by the senior guard.Dillard clinched the win with two free throws with five seconds left for a 64-59 advantage.

Singletary scored 16 and had three assists with two steals, but he had six turnovers. "We weren't focused," Singletary said. "Once we got them down, we didn't execute. I don't think we were down after losing to Oklahoma."

As Mitchell looked into the locker room where his players were replaying the loss, he hinted there could be some lineup changes before they play Delaware State in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference road game Saturday.

"It's hard to tell what I might do so soon after this game," Mitchell said. "I'll look at what the situation is and go from there."

COPPIN STATE -- Warrick 1-8 0-0 2, Lewis 2-3 0-0 4, Pena 2-4 0-0, 4, Brockington 11-22 5-5 30, Singletary 5-11 6-7 16, Jones 0-0 1-2 1, Seamon 0-2 0-0 0, Watkins 0-0 0-2 0, Lewis 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-52 12-16 59.

SAM HOUSTON STATE -- Girtz 0-1 0-0 0, Burkhalter 8-16 2-2 22, Grein 0-1 0-0 0, Watson 1-9 0-0 3, Dillard 7-16 5-9 26, Abdus-Salaam 0-0 0-0 0, Winn 0-2 0-0 0, Amaya 4-5 4-6 12, Fernandez 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 20-50 14-18 64.

Halftime--Coppin State, 29-21. 3-point goals--CS 3-19 (Warrick 0-5, Brockington 3-10, Singletary 0-3, Lewis 0-1.); SHS 10-18 (Burkhalter 4-5, Grein 0-1, Waston 1-3, Dillard 5-9.). Rebounds--CS 26 (Pena 10); SHS 34 (Grein, Winn 7) Assists--CS 8 (Singletary 3); SHS 13 (Watson 5). Total fouls--CS 17, SHS 15. A--n/a.

Pub Date: 12/29/97

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