It's not pretty, but Coppin wins, 77-65 Hard work pays again as victory over Fla. A&M earns spot in MEAC final

March 07, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. -- There was a lot more smash than flash and more defense than offense for Coppin State yesterday in a 77-65 victory over Florida A&M in the semifinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.

But it was a typical performance lately for the Eagles, who seem to go out every night and thrive on defense and hard work in the trenches.

Whatever the method, it was hard to fault the result as Coppin is now just one victory away from a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

The top-seeded Eagles (21-7) will meet second-seeded South Carolina State (21-7) at noon today for the MEAC tournament championship and the right to go to the 64-team NCAA tourney.

For Coppin yesterday, it was a game for such unsung heroes as junior forwards Dorian Pena and Rafi Reavis to steal some of the limelight from the kings of flash, Antoine Brockington and Danny Singletary.

Pena and Reavis spent the entire afternoon trying to shove massive 7-foot-1, 285-pound Rattlers center Jerome James around in the low post, and they were mostly successful, taking away Florida A&M's primary scoring threat.

Pena and Reavis limited James to 14 points and helped get the NBA prospect in foul trouble late in the first half when he collected his third foul.

"They kept pushing Jerome off the blocks and farther away from the basket, where he is not comfortable shooting," said coach Mickey Clayton of fourth-seeded Florida A&M.

"I knew I was taking a chance putting him back in the game with two fouls late in the first half, but Coppin was starting to go on a run and I didn't want to fall behind too far."

James said: "I knew it would hurt us if I got my third foul and, sure enough, it took some of my aggressiveness away. I got called for hooking going to the basket and I obviously didn't like the call."

Pena not only played strong defense on James, but he scored a career-high 13 points and had seven rebounds and three steals in 27 minutes.

While many of his teammates have been struggling on offense recently, Pena has come on strong with a 10.5 average in the last four games to raise his season scoring mark to 4.3 a game.

Reavis took only three shots, hitting two of them for four points, but that didn't diminish the praise from his teammates and coach Fang Mitchell for the job he did on James.

James was little short of awesome Thursday night when he erupted for 33 points in a quarterfinal victory over Delaware State.

Singletary said: "Rafi was something else the way he worked over James. He and Dorian helped save us."

Mitchell said: "It was one of those real ugly games that had no flow and was not made for television [Home Team Sports decided to broadcast the game on short notice]. It was bad to the point where I was worrying about who I was going to put on the floor."

Coppin forward Fred Warrick led the offense with 16 points, with Brockington and Singletary each scoring 13 to join Pena.

Senior center Kareem Lewis had 11 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two assists, giving Coppin five players in double figures.

Florida A&M (11-17) gave Coppin a big assist by hitting only 21 of 43 free throws.

"We have no one to blame but ourselves," said Clayton. "We've had trouble shooting free throws all year and nothing changed today."

FLORIDA A&M -- Bullock 2-12 7-11 11, Seay 1-5 3-8 5, James 4-16 6-12 14, Fletcher 1-4 0-2 2, George 7-11 2-2 16, Scott 0-2 0-1 0, Martin 0-4 0-1 0, Woodard 0-0 0-0 0, Pippins 4-9 3-6 12, Grant 1-2 0-0 3, Green 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 21-69 21-43 65.

COPPIN ST. -- Brockington 3-12 6-6 13, Lewis 1-2 0-0 2, Reavis 2-3 0-0 4, Singletary 4-11 4-7 13, Lewis 5-10 1-2 11, Jones 0-4 0-0 0, Seamon 0-3 3-4 3, Warrick 4-9 7-10 16, Pena 1-1 11-12 13, Watkins 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 20-55 34-43 77.

Halftime--Coppin St. 33-28. 3-point goals--Florida A&M 2-15 (Bullock 0-6, Fletcher 0-2, Pippins 1-3, Grant 1-2, Green 0-2), Coppin St. 3-9 (Brockington 1-3, Lewis 0-1, Singletary 1-2, Lewis 0-1, Seamon 0-1, Warrick 1-1). Fouled out--George, Reavis. fTC Rebounds--Florida A&M 58 (James 14), Coppin St. 40 (Lewis 11). Assists--Florida A&M 4 (Bullock 3), Coppin St. 5 (Singletary 2). Total fouls--Florida A&M 30, Coppin St. 29. Technicals--James.

MEAC men's tournament


At Richmond, Va.

Tuesday's first round

Howard 79, B.-Cook. 77, OT

Wednesday's quarterfinals

Coppin State 82, Howard 66

S.C. State 64, N.C. A&T 58

Thursday's quarterfinals

Morgan State 72, UMES 51

Fla. A&M 88, Del. State 70

Yesterday's semifinals

Coppin State 77, Fla. A&M 65

S.C. State 82, Morgan 69

Today's championship

Coppin State vs. S.C. State, noon, ESPN2

Pub Date: 3/07/98

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