Coppin readies for tough road

Connecticut, St. John's, Auburn and Purdue on nonconference schedule

State notebook

October 15, 1999|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Those following Fang Mitchell and his men's basketball program at Coppin State have become accustomed to audaciousness, especially when it comes to scheduling.

While "anytime, anywhere," is an empty boast or invitation for most, the Eagles have majored in follow-through during Mitchell's tenure, the 13th season of which begins tonight with a Midnight Madness event, featuring the women's team as well, that starts at 9 at the Coppin Center.

Last season, Coppin went on the road to play 10 of its first 12 games against nonconference opponents, including four (Syracuse, Iowa, Oklahoma and New Mexico) that made the NCAA tournament. Mitchell somehow managed to trump that for the coming winter.

There are fewer nonconference road games (seven) to be played before the meat of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference season. But this bad medicine might be more potent than any the Eagles have taken in recent years, led by two pairs of games that fit in with the term "suicide drill."

Coppin plays Connecticut and St. John's back-to-back on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, then Auburn and Purdue on Dec. 11 and 13.

Though Mitchell wouldn't disclose how much guarantee money the Eagles got in return, he said, "They got their game, and we got paid. Both parties are smiling."

The Eagles tried but couldn't get Duke on the schedule, though they did get NCAA-tournament qualifier George Mason (Nov. 27), which will present a challenge to a Coppin team that lost its top scorer (Fred Warrick) and rebounder (Dorian Pena).

"This will create a major problem because we're in a rebuilding mode," Mitchell said during a MEAC regional news conference at Morgan State on Wednesday. "I'm asking for prayers from my colleagues."

In the past, these apparent mismatches -- the only games Coppin could get -- made sense. They toughened the Eagles for MEAC play and there was guarantee money for their trouble.

Plus, they looked somewhat promising, with players like Larry Stewart, Terquin Mott, Reggie Welch, Antoine Brockington, Danny Singletary and Warrick. But while the team is picked to finish second in the conference, it has Jorge Cajigas, Kofi Pointer and Rasheem Sims as its only players who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season.

"There are a lot of question marks," said Mitchell, whose team begins play against UMBC on Nov. 19 in the Battle of Baltimore. "We have to find a way to replace our No. 1 and 3 scorer and No. 1 and 2 rebounder, and find a way to continue to play defense."

Midnight Madness and etc.

Towson and UMBC will also conduct basketball-related festivities tonight at the Towson Center and Retriever Activities Complex, respectively. Morgan State, in the midst of homecoming, and Loyola, because of fall break, will hold the pep rallies at later dates.

Towson, which opens with Loyola in the Battle of Baltimore on Nov. 19, will start its late-night event at 10: 45, and UMBC begins at 9 p.m.

UMBC and Morgan State will be participating in the Conference Challenge, scheduled for Dec. 10-12 at UMBC. The 10-team event will feature men's and women's squads from the America East, Northeast Conference, Patriot, Colonial, MEAC, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Ivy League. Both men's teams will play, as will the UMBC women.

Taye dominates

Frostburg State's Mike Taye provided a familiar sight to spectators at Oregon Ridge State Park last weekend.

The senior from Rockville crossed the finish line in the Maryland State Collegiate Cross Country Championships alone, almost like a preliminary event before the race for second place.

Only in Taye's case, the opening act tends to upstage the main bill. It did so Saturday, as he beat Towson's John Supsic by 40 seconds.

Taye does this all the time. In most races, he exhilarates fans with his swift arrival, leaving opponents stranded.

Even against Division I competition, as was the case last weekend, this is normal.

"Usually, its 50 seconds or more between me and the next finisher," said Taye, who won the NCAA indoor championship last season at 5,000 meters and the outdoor at 10,000 meters. So far, Taye has won every meet he's run in this season except for a meet at William & Mary, where he placed third.

Other than that, things have gone almost too smoothly for the medical school aspirant, who holds a 3.4 grade-point-average in biology and chemistry. Taye would prefer tougher competition.

"I do want someone up there with me," he said. "I like going to the big invitationals, where I've been pushed. I want to get something out of it."

Miscellaneous

The UMBC men's soccer team (11-0-1), ranked No. 20 in Division I by Soccer America, plays a pair of home games this weekend. The Retrievers play today at 3: 30 against defending NEC champ St. Francis (N.Y.), then play host to Long Island on Sunday at 2: 30. The Frostburg State women's volleyball team, ranked No. 19 in Division III, begins play in the Western Maryland College Invitational today with a 2 p.m. match against Messiah. Led by Catonsville alumna Shannon Rexrode, the Bobcats have won 60 of their past 65 matches. Not to be outdone, the Morgan State women's volleyball team has won 41 straight matches in the MEAC after defeating Howard on Tuesday night. The streak is tied with Illinois (1985-87) as the 15th-longest conference streak in NCAA Division I history. Dorothy Buford and Java Johnson were named the MEAC's top player and newcomer last week.

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