Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell hopes his team learned a lesson in last night's 68-60 victory over Howard in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game before 1,452 at the Coppin Center. The Eagles dominated play in the first half and had a 34-16 lead in the opening minute of the second half.
But Howard caused problems with its full-court pressure defense and cut the lead to five several times before Coppin hung on for its fourth straight win.
"We were playing not to lose rather than playing to win," Mitchell said. "They have to be more focused and more aggressive. I want my team to play hard and be mature enough to understand what it takes to win."
Larry Tucker led Coppin with a game-high 18 points and combined with guards Deke Thompson (16 points) and Raheem Scott (11) to spark the Eagles' offense. Darron Bradley added 10 points, five rebounds and three steals off the bench, while Jimmy Boykin played a key role with nine points, eight rebounds and four assists.
In the early minutes, it didn't appear that Coppin (6-12, 6-3) would need that much extra help. Tucker and Scott led a 14-point run that appeared to give the Eagles command. Scott scored seven during that stretch and Tucker added five as the Eagles took an 18-point lead.
But Howard (5-13, 3-6) rallied in the second half. The Bison, ranked second in the MEAC in scoring, scored 44 points in the second period after a flat first 20 minutes. Howard used a pair of eight-point runs to come close before Coppin made several key free throws in the final minutes.
"We knew that they were going to come out shooting," Tucker said. "We just didn't execute."
But Coppin slowed Howard's dynamic backcourt of Ron Williamson and Kyle Williams. The guards were averaging nearly 35 points per game entering last night, but the Eagles held them to five points in the first half. Williamson finished with 17 points, but made just 6 of 21 shots from the field. Williams hit only 4 of 11.
Coppin's tough defense held Howard to just 39 percent shooting from the field, including only seven baskets in the first half.
That's why the Eagles were unhappy with the final score.
"We were just getting content, and we should have ... put the nail in the coffin," Thompson said.