UNC gives Coppin rude welcome, 97-62

In 1st NCAA tourney game, Lady Eagles done in by Heels' 25-0 run in 1st half

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

March 21, 2005|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The debut of the Coppin State women in the NCAA tournament wasn't pretty.

Bracketed as a 16th seed and sent to the Smith Center to play homestanding North Carolina last night, the Lady Eagles crumbled under strong defensive pressure for 5 1/2 nightmarish minutes early in the first half and never recovered in a 97-62 defeat to a team with national championship aspirations.

Taller, with longer arms and well-schooled about how to trap dribblers, the Tar Heels scored 25 unanswered points to take a 35-9 lead midway through the first period and essentially end any suspense about the outcome.

To make matters worse, the Tar Heels foiled Coppin's hope that their outside shots wouldn't fall, hitting a season-high 12 of 22 from three-point range to complement a strong transition game triggered by a defense that forced 27 turnovers.

"A lot of that shooting was due to our lack of defense," said Coppin coach Derek Brown. "I really haven't seen a team shoot the ball that well ever."

North Carolina (28-3) had a 33-point cushion by the break, then may have suffered a slight letdown in its first game in nearly two weeks. Coppin took advantage to play the Tar Heels virtually even in the second half.

The Lady Eagles reacted to traps as if they had never seen them before, picking up their dribble after one bounce or trying to pass above defenders, who simply swatted the ball away or stole it.

"It was tough trying to pass over them because they're much taller than us," said Coppin point guard Denita Plain.

"We just froze up a little bit," added Brown. "We wanted to throw over top of the traps and that was the wrong thing to do. Then, they were off to the races and, psychologically, it was hard to stop it."

North Carolina made 22 of 31 first-half shots and finished the game with a season-high 62.3 shooting percentage. A lot of that lofty figure was due to a defense that made 20 steals -- the Tar Heels lead the nation in that category -- and set up numerous easy baskets.

As if they needed any added motivation, the Tar Heels also were inspired by their shocking first-round loss to Middle Tennessee State last season.

"We learned from the past," said North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell. "We were more ready to play this time."

Point guard Ivory Latta was everything Plain expected, scoring a game-high 27 points, hitting five of seven from three-point range and adding four assists and three steals. Camille Little had 17 points, Nikita Bell had 16 and Leah Metcalf added 14 for North Carolina, which has won 14 straight times.

"I loved playing against her," said Plain. "I'm one of our players in the best shape and my feet got tired going against her. Then, your mind gets tired. She's a great player."

Coppin (23-8), which had won eight straight games, was more displeased about having to play such a highly ranked team on its home turf than the nature of the loss.

"I don't think it was fair at all," said Sherrie Tucker, who topped the Lady Eagles with 14 points and five rebounds.

Said Brown: "I think it was extremely unfair. I know it's probably all about dollars and cents. We might as well have been in the NIT on the men's side. That's all about money."

North Carolina, which plays the majority of its home schedule at Carmichael Auditorium, is 4-0 at the Smith Center this season.

"We have a feel for the gym," said Little. "We've played here many times. It's kind of like a home court."

COPPIN STATE--Sutton 2-4 2-4 6, S. Tucker 5-16 3-4 14, Willis 4-13 1-1 9, Plain 2-2 4-4 8, Strickland 2-6 0-2 4, Suber 3-7 0-0 8, Harry 4-7 3-5 11, Williams 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 23-57 13-20 62.

NORTH CAROLINA--Little 7-10 0-2 17, Bell 8-10 0-0 16, Larkins 4-4 4-4 12, Atkinson 1-8 0-0 2, Latta 9-13 4-5 27, Metcalf 5-9 0-1 14, McBee 1-3 0-0 2, Pringle 3-3 1-2 7, Nelms 0-0 0-0 0, Sell 0-1 0-0 0, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, T. Tucker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 38-61 9-16 97. Half--North Carolina, 54-21. 3-point goals--Coppin State 3-10 (Suber 2-5, S. Tucker 1-4, Willis 0-1), North Carolina 12-22 (Latta 5-7, Metcalf 4-6, Little 3-5, McBee 0-1, Sell 0-1, Atkinson 0-2).

Fouled out--None. Rebounds--Coppin State 29 (S. Tucker 5), North Carolina 33 (Bell 6, Pringle 6). Assists--Coppin State 14 (Sutton 8), North Carolina 23 (Atkinson 5, Metcalf 5). Technical fouls--McBee. Total fouls--Coppin State 16, North Carolina 15. A--N/A.

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