S.C. State drives past Coppin

Wiatre's end-to-end effort blunts Eagles rally, 60-59

January 30, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

With the exception of about seven seconds, the Coppin State men's basketball team played remarkable second-half defense against South Carolina State last night, holding the Bulldogs to 28 percent shooting.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, those seven seconds were all it took for Mike Wiatre to drive the length of the court for a layup with four seconds left, lifting South Carolina State to a 60-59 victory at the Coppin Center.

In addition to keeping the Bulldogs alone in first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the win also avenged a 15-point defeat to the Eagles on Dec. 4.

"We didn't come to play and they did," South Carolina State forward James Jones said, remembering the first game. "We had to come back and prove that we're a good team, too."

Afterward, some Coppin players were downcast despite coming back from a 10-point deficit with 15 minutes left in the game.

For senior Tyran Watkins, the missed opportunities were what lingered from a game that seemed on its way to becoming a Coppin State blowout, then a South Carolina State blowout, then a feel-good Coppin State redemption, the Eagles holding a three-point lead late in the game.

"We're frustrated with ourselves for not playing well," Watkins said after scoring 13 points, all in the second half. "There were a lot of key stops we could have made, there were a lot of things we could have done."

Coppin (6-13, 6-4 MEAC) went ahead 14-2 with 13: 52 left in the first half as Jorge Cajigas, Rasheem Sims and Joe Brown combined to hit four out of five three-point attempts.

South Carolina State (11-10, 8-2), after missing 11 of its first 12 shots, hit 63 percent over the last 13: 33 of the half on the way to a 34-29 lead.

The Eagles responded by going to an inside game that was dormant up to that point. Watkins and Kofi Pointer combined for 19 of the team's 30 second-half points. Watkins gave Coppin its first lead of the second half on a layup with 4: 36 to go, and the team held a 59-56 edge on the Bulldogs with 1: 14 remaining.

James Jones (13 points) narrowed the margin to one on a pair of free throws with 1: 04 left, and S.C. State got another life when Cajigas missed a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left and the ball went into the hands of Wiatre.

"They didn't have time to set up and we caught them off-guard," Wiatre said of his end-to-end drive.

With one final chance, Michael Poster's inbounds pass for Coppin went off the hands of Brown and into those of Jones, underscoring Coppin coach Fang Mitchell's main complaint.

"It was disappointing because of the basics," Mitchell said. "Eventually, the guys will learn what we have to do down the stretch."

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