Grieving Coppin falls to UMES

Eagles try to win one for absent coach who lost wife, but are short, 64-59

January 16, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Coppin State men's basketball team has been emotionally ravaged since the death of head coach Fang Mitchell's wife, Yvonne, last week.

Last night, only hours after the first lady of the Eagles was buried in New Jersey, the players went all out to provide the absent Mitchell with a victory at the Coppin Center.

It wasn't to be in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game against Maryland-Eastern Shore, a team that has been an upstart in the league.

Coppin toiled hard, but crashed in the final five minutes and lost a 64-59 decision in a game postponed from Monday night.

"We wanted to win this one for Coach," said Eagles senior forward Larry Tucker (Dunbar). "This is probably the toughest loss of our season."

Perhaps it was the draining of emotion or the short-handed bench that caught up with Coppin (3-14, 1-5), which had not played a game at home since Dec. 3.

During the telltale stretch at the end, the Eagles committed three turnovers, went 0-for-5 from the field and looked like a spent unit.

"I think we beat ourselves in the last five minutes," said associate head coach Keith Johnson. "Our guys were raring to go and expended a lot of energy early. We just couldn't maintain it and finish."

Coppin is playing without senior point guard Rasheem Sims (broken toe), two players dismissed from the team (Donnell Thomas and LeMar Ruffin) and was missing backup center DeMond Huff (strep throat).

"We knew what we were in for," Tucker said. "We just tried to focus on controlling our emotions."

All that aside, UMES (7-8, 4-2) completed a sweep of its Baltimore invasion by overcoming poor shooting nights by its most potent three-point threats and two top scorers, guards Thomas Trotter and Josh Hickman.

Trotter went 0-for-6 from three-point range and hit his only field goal with 8:51 remaining. Hickman was 2-for-8 from the field and had a lone three-pointer.

Into the void stepped senior swingman Kevin Darby, who converted six three-pointers, all of them at opportune moments. The last one gave the Hawks the lead for good at 62-59.

"Once I got going, I think the team fed off my energy," said Darby, who comes off the bench. "They picked up my confidence."

"He's been doing it the last three games," coach Thomas Trotter said of Darby. "He's been our hero. Once he got to hitting them, we felt pretty good about going to him."

Trotter the coach said he had mixed emotions about only the Hawks' second win in their past 34 games with Coppin.

"I kind of idolized Fang growing up," he said. "He's one of the guys who opened doors for the rest of us."

No one is sure when Mitchell will return to the sidelines. The Eagles go to Florida this weekend for games Saturday and Monday and he is expected to make the trip but may not coach.

"It's his call whether he coaches or not," said Johnson, who missed the shoot-around yesterday morning when the fan belt on his car broke and he had to return to Delaware for another vehicle.

"All I know is that it seems like this last week has lasted forever."

UMES-Bowen 4-11 1-1 11, Thomas 3-3 1-1 7, Trotter 1-10 0-1 2, Joiner 1-3 0-0 3, Banks 2-4 2-2 6, Hickman 2-8 2-2 7, Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Allen 0-0 0-2 0, Darby 6-12 2-2 20, Newsom 4-5 0-0 8. Totals 23-58 8-11 64.

COPPIN STATE-Poster 1-6 1-1 3, Tucker 4-18 6-6 14, Colter 4-6 2-2 10, Smith 2-7 1-2 6, Ferreira 1-5 0-0 2, Cagle 2-5 0-0 4, Boykin 4-9 4-6 15, Wright 1-3 3-4 5. Totals 19-59 17-21 59.

Halftime-Coppin State, 35-31. 3-point goals-UMES 10-29 (Bowen 2-3, Darby 6-11, Joiner 1-3, Hickman 1-4, Banks 0-2, Trotter 0-6); Coppin State 4-12 (Boykin 3-6, Smith 1-3, Tucker 0-1, Poster 0-2). Fouled out-none. Rebounds-UMES 36 (Newsom 5); Coppin State 43 (Tucker 9). Assists-UMES 10 (Trotter 4); Coppin State 6 (Smith 3). Total fouls-UMES 15; Coppin State 11. A-514.

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