Circus flip floors Coppin Overhead toss carries S.C. State to 78-76 win

January 18, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

The basketball was in the right hands at the right time for Coppin State, but the Eagles failed on a routine play and couldn't overcome a South Carolina State miracle.

Down two points to the Bulldogs with 18 seconds remaining, the Eagles had to have liked their chances to tie or win, especially when the ball reached top scorer Antoine Brockington. But his running 12-foot jumper missed badly to the left, and S.C. State escaped with a 78-76 win yesterday.

And yet, the Bulldogs wouldn't have won their first game in 11 attempts at Coppin State without an improbable circus shot by Raheem Waller with 63 seconds remaining. He wrestled a rebound away from Kareem Lewis and flung the ball over his head and into the basket.

Once the Eagles failed on two chances to tie or win, they had only their second loss in 54 home games, ending their 10-game Coppin Center winning streak.

"I was worried [about the final possession] because I've lost some games in here like that," S.C. State coach Cy Alexander said. "But we don't fear Coppin. They've been dominant in the conference, but they haven't dominated us."

And yet, he noted the game's importance. "It's the greatest win I've ever had in coaching because we won at a place I've never won at before."

The Bulldogs (7-5, 6-0 MEAC) have won four of the past six meetings with the Eagles (7-7, 5-1), something that wasn't lost on either Alexander or Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell.

"The reality is that the situation has been two or three good teams in this conference every year," said Mitchell, whose teams have won the past five regular-season conference titles. "Then, every time I look, we see our conference at the bottom [of power rankings]."

S.C. State can be encouraged by taking a lead over Coppin State in the MEAC race, but it wouldn't have occurred without Waller's heroics with 1: 03 remaining.

With the game tied at 76, the Eagles' Kareem Lewis appeared to have a defensive rebound. However, in the process of wrestling the ball away and getting fouled, Waller flung it over his head. It went in, but he then missed the free throw.

The Eagles still had time to overcome it.

On their first trip downcourt, Fred Warrick missed a three-pointer. Then, after stopping the Bulldogs, the Eagles held the ball only to see Brockington miss.

Mitchell wasn't pushing the panic button.

"When you lose a game where if you get a rebound you're going in a whole other direction, it's not as if drastic changes have to be made," he said.

Coppin State failed on three fronts that contributed to the loss:

The failure to execute a simple play that could have tied or won the game. (Brockington was supposed to come off a screen but the play bogged down and he didn't get the ball until there were only three seconds remaining.);

An inability to hold a nine-point lead midway through the second half;

Ineffective defense on Bulldogs guards Roderick Blakney and Tyler Brown, who schooled the Eagles by combining to score 55 points, 22 above their average. Blakney scored 28, Brown 27.

"That part is frustrating," Mitchell said. "We couldn't stop players we knew were going to have the basketball. That's where the pride factor comes in."

Coppin State dominated the opening five minutes, taking a 7-1 lead on a three-pointer by Troy Lewis with 17: 29 remaining.

S.C. State answered immediately. Waller, Blakney and Brown combined to score seven in a row by the 13: 54 mark for an 8-7 lead.

Brown scored seven of his 15 first-half points to push the Bulldogs to a 23-17 lead at the 9: 47 mark of the first half. That

period was marked by the absence of Brockington, who scored a team-high 25, but hit only seven of 18 shots.

Despite the consistent scoring of the S.C. State guards, the Eagles' press harassed the Bulldogs into turnovers, including three in a row that the Eagles converted for points to take a 25-23 lead with 8: 41 left.

Two baskets by Brown gave S.C. State a short-lived lead.

Then Rafi Reavis scored five consecutive points to give the Eagles a 30-27 lead with 5: 31 remaining, an advantage they held for the remainder of the half.

Coppin State increased a 40-37 halftime lead to 62-53 on a basket by Danny Singletary with 11: 08 remaining.

But Brown and Blakney led S.C. State's charge. A three-pointer by Brown cut the deficit to 70-69 with 5: 16 remaining.

At that point, Blakney jumped in. He followed two free throws by Warrick with a three-pointer to tie it and gave the Bulldogs the lead on a layup with 3: 23 remaining.

Then it was Brown's turn. He hit a jumper to extend the lead to 76-72 with 2: 28 remaining. Coppin State fought back for the tie on four free throws by Singletary.

Joining Brockington in double-figure scoring for the Eagles were Warrick with 16, and Troy Lewis and Singletary with 12 each.

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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