Coppin is knocked out in MEAC quarters, 78-66

Norfolk State gives Eagles 1st losing year since '87-88

March 09, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. - Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell could not give into this mode of thinking before last night's game - that this was a bad matchup for his team.

Afterward, though, in the wake of his team's 78-66 defeat to Norfolk State, Coppin's third loss to the Spartans this season, he acknowledged what a bad matchup it was.

And the numbers prove Mitchell correct. Norfolk State shot 53 percent from the field, out-rebounded the No. 5 seed Eagles 42-33 and, at one point in the second half, held an 18-point lead.

A close game early turned into a pretty dominant performance by the fourth-seeded Spartans, who will face top-seeded Hampton today in the semifinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.

The loss ended Coppin's season at 13-15, its first losing record since Mitchell's second year in 1987-88.

"I think they had some added confidence because of the fact they beat us twice," Mitchell said. "Sometimes you just have those matchups that are just bad matchups for certain teams. I definitely looked at Norfolk being a bad matchup for us. We still had to go out and compete and give it all we can."

Norfolk State (12-16) has four straight wins over Coppin. The Spartans, who appear to be peaking, have also won three consecutive games, including victories over Hampton and No. 2 seed South Carolina State to finish the regular season.

Coppin had trouble preventing tip-ins and fast-break layups all night against the Spartans, but trailed by only 11 with a little more than five minutes left.

Norfolk State, sparked by guard Derrick Smith's play off the bench, went on a 20-9 run over the next three minutes to put the game out of reach. Smith converted two three-point plays during the run.

Coppin looked surprisingly flat for a team that reached the final of the MEAC tournament last season. The Spartans had 44 points in the paint and 23 second-chance points, with many coming on simple hustle plays.

"I thought that we ran into a very determined team tonight," Mitchell said. "They were ready to meet the challenge.

"We didn't do the things as far as playing the defense we're capable of. Anytime a team shoots 53 percent against you, you know you have problems, especially in the rebounding area, where they got decent shots.

"Basketball is a game where you try to take away easy baskets. Their transition baskets and second-shot points just created a problem for us all night long."

First-team All-MEAC selection Joe Brown, playing in his final game for the Eagles, scored a game-high 22 points.

"I didn't accomplish what I set out to accomplish," Brown said. "It hurts even more knowing that we didn't come out and give it our all. We didn't play to our potential.

"I thought our defense was a lot better, but we reverted back to how we started off at the beginning of the season. We didn't execute what the coaches were talking about."

The Spartans led 33-28 at halftime, thanks to 57 percent shooting and a 12-point effort off the bench by Michael Boyd.

Coppin and Norfolk were the last two teams to begin play in the tournament. It was a 66-60 win last week over Morgan State that kept Coppin from playing in the first round of the tournament and forced the game against Norfolk.

Said Mitchell: "I just don't think we had the fight or desire for us to not only win this game but win the tournament."

COPPIN STATE - Sims 1-7 2-5 4, Poster 5-13 0-0 12, Brown 7-21 8-9 22, Tucker 3-7 2-4 8, Nieves 0-1 0-1 0, Thomas 6-9 2-5 14, Wright 2-3 2-2 6. Totals 24-61 16-26 66.

NORFOLK STATE - Winston 3-10 3-4 10, Dove 1-1 0-0 2, Roberts 6-7 3-4 17, Neal 3-6 1-3 7, Abney 0-1 0-0 0, Mills 1-3 0-2 2, Smith 6-12 1-2 15, Whitfield 1-1 1-1 3, Whittle 0-1 3-4 3, Boyd 5-8 4-7 14, Quick 2-3 1-1 5.

Totals 28-53 17-28 78.

Halftime - Norfolk, 33-28. 3-point goals - Coppin 2-20 (Sims 0-5, Poster 2-6, Brown 0-8, Nieves 0-1); Norfolk 5-9 (Winston 1-3, Roberts 2-2, Smith 2-4); Rebounds - Coppin 33 (Thomas 11); Norfolk 42 (Boyd 14); Assists - Coppin 6 (Sims, Brown 2); Norfolk 16 (Winston 9). A - 3,607.

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