Coppin goes cold, takes 58-51 hit in final

Weak second-half offense, Florida A&M's 3-pointers spell Eagles' end in MEAC

College Basketball

March 14, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. - The Coppin State men ran out of last-second heroics yesterday.

With their offense practically vanishing in the second half, the Eagles were unwilling prey for Florida A&M's three-point show and lost the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's championship game, 58-51, at the Richmond Coliseum.

So, an enigmatic Florida A&M, which has a losing record (14-16), will represent the MEAC in the NCAA Division I tournament, though it will have to participate in the play-in game.

Not that the fifth-seeded Rattlers were lightly regarded in their own league. They were the preseason choice to finish first but ran hot and cold all season.

Coppin (18-14) shot only 5-for-20 from the field after the break and, worse, went 7-for-16 from the foul line over the same period and 10-for-22 overall.

"When you find yourself behind, you start pressing," said Eagles coach Fang Mitchell. "Rushing your shots causes a lot of problems and gets into you mentally. We kept going for the home run ball when patience is the most important thing."

It was a team that was sluggish offensively after surviving a double-overtime battle with crosstown rival Morgan State in the quarterfinals and ousting Delaware State in the semifinals on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Jimmy Boykin.

Coppin obviously missed freshman Kelvin Green, who, as a Seventh-Day Adventist, does not play from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Green, the squad's second-leading scorer, has an ability to create his own offense, a trait the Eagles sorely needed against an opponent with the most talented group of guards in the MEAC.

"We had to play without him," said Mitchell. "With him, we don't just do things the same way."

The Eagles led by four at the half before the Rattlers hit three straight threes to start the second period, going on a 13-1 run to pull ahead. They protected the lead the rest of the way, fending off several Coppin mini-runs that fizzled before they became serious threats.

With Coppin playing tough on the perimeter against tournament MVP Terrence Woods and Demarcus Wilkins, the Rattlers' top two scorers, Tony Tate emerged from their shadow to hit five three-pointers and finish with a game-high 20 points.

"When we recruited [Tate], we thought he would play like this every day," said Florida A&M coach Mike Gillespie. "It didn't happen, but the day he came he told us we'd win the championship, and I never doubted him."

"I felt it after I hit the third [three-pointer]," Tate, a transfer from Pittsburgh, said. "What better day to do this?"

Woods, who led the MEAC in scoring and paces the nation in threes, went to the NCAAs twice as a player at Tennessee. He had 13 points to support Tate, and Wilkins pitched in with 10 points and eight rebounds, although he stands only 5 feet 9.

"This is an even better feeling than then," said Woods. "At Tennessee, it's expected [going to the tournament]. Here, you've got to work to get there."

Coppin has not won the league championship since 1997. Yesterday's loss, which ended a five-game Eagles winning streak, was only the second in the team's final 12 games.

The outcome was a return to 1991 and 1999 for the Rattlers, who captured those two tournaments as low seeds.

"It isn't like we backed our way in [this time]," said Gillespie. "We had to beat the No. 4 [Hampton, on a buzzer-beater by Woods], No. 1 [South Carolina State] and No. 2 [Coppin] seeds, so we earned it."

The Eagles received 12 points from Nicholas King and 10 from their lone senior, Boykin.

"They made their shots and their foul shots and we didn't," said Mitchell. "So we ended up on the wrong end."

FLORIDA A&M - Wilkins 3-8 2-4 10, Tate 7-11 1-2 20, Woods 4-11 2-2 13, Ayodele 1-5 2-3 4, Harper 0-4 1-2 1, White 0-2 0-0 0, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, Kelly 1-2 2-2 4, Zamore 0-2 2-2 2, Russell 0-2 4-5 4. Totals 16-47 16-22 58. COPPIN STATE - Yates 1-3 0-0 2, King 4-9 0-2 12, Boykin 4-12 0-1 10, Scott 3-5 3-6 9, Colter 2-4 3-5 7, Muhammad 0-1 0-0 0, Bradley 0-3 2-4 2, Jones 3-7 2-4 9. Totals 17-44 10-22 51. Half: Coppin State, 32-28. 3-Point Goals-Florida A&M 10-25 (Tate 5-6, Woods 3-9, Wilkins 2-4, Harper 0-1, White 0-2, Ayodele 0-3), Coppin State 7-21 (King 4-8, Boykin 2-9, Jones 1-3, Muhammad 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Florida A&M 36 (Ayodele 10), Coppin State 33 (Scott 9). Assists-Florida A&M 8 (Wilkins 4), Coppin State 12 (Scott 5). Total fouls-Florida A&M 19, Coppin State 17. A-NA.

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