Towson tops Coppin for consolation prize

61-57 defeat is Eagles' 2nd in 2 nights at home

November 21, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Coppin State played the perfect host for the 1999 Battle of Baltimore tournament.

Two new starters couldn't provide the necessary offensive lift the Eagles required last night and Towson took advantage for a 61-57 victory in the consolation game at the Coppin Center.

After going nearly seven years without a defeat to a nonconference foe at home, Coppin (0-2) absorbed two on consecutive nights.

The Eagles overcame 24 percent first-half shooting to bounce back into contention, but their lack of scoring punch and shortage of help for Jorge Cajigas helped Towson (1-1) surge away from a 49-49 tie.

Cajigas, tracked by Marlin Wise (Southern-Baltimore), was 3-for-14 from the field and finished with 12 points. Coppin shot just 33 percent.

"It was all Marlin Wise," said Tigers coach Mike Jaskulski. "We told him, `Just don't leave him [Cajigas],' and he did as sound a job defensively as I've seen since I've been at Towson."

Fellow guard Damon Cason (Southern-Baltimore) made most of the key plays on the other end at crunch time, picking up a loose ball to score the basket that made it 52-49, then sent a nifty feed to Shaun Holtz for a slam that put the Eagles' attack on defense.

Coppin was never closer than two points the rest of the way and Cason cemented the triumph by hitting two free throws with six seconds left.

Four three-pointers in the second half kept the Tigers in gear after the Eagles turned up the defensive pressure, with Holtz nailing a key one from the corner after Rasheem Sims' three-pointer had pulled Coppin within 56-54.

Coppin coach Fang Mitchell said his team lacked intensity in the first half and still has "a lot of weaknesses. We're trying to find a groove. It's a growing situation."

Cajigas packed eight of his 12 points into the first 20 minutes, then went 1-for-8 the rest of the game with Wise on his heels and his teammates unable to provide the screens he often needs.

"We've got to get things from other people," Mitchell said. "Jorge basically was trying to do everything himself. It's a lot easier on the other team when it only has one person to concentrate on."

Coppin did receive some spurts from Joe Brown (11 points) and Sims (10), but nothing consistent.

The Tigers, who play at Morgan State on Tuesday, received a fine first half from Brian Barber before Holtz and Cason carried the attack after intermission.

"We had a team meeting and the coach told me not to be gun-shy," Cason said.

The Eagles increased the pressure on Towson's ballhandlers during one stretch and scored seven straight to gain their first lead, 41-39, on a steal and layup by Khari McKie.

But a technical against the Eagles' bench preceded the Tigers' streak that Cason highlighted to give Towson command.

"I think our team played better offensively in this tournament than last year. And better on the backboards," Jaskulski said. "Coppin plays so hard and so well at home, and after they got beat yesterday, it wasn't easy having to do it again today.

"They're just very inexperienced."

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