Mistakes cost Coppin in loss to Del. State

Delaware State 54 Coppin State 49

January 07, 2007|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun reporter

The little things loomed large for Coppin State, one of the smallest teams in Division I.

The Eagles played well enough to beat most members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference yesterday, but inaccurate free-throw shooting, careless turnovers and poor rebounding at the defensive end kept them from overtaking MEAC favorite Delaware State, a 54-49 winner at Coppin Center.

Coppin State (3-12, 1-2) made just six of its 16 free throws. It allowed Delaware State (5-9, 2-0) to convert 10 offensive rebounds in the second half into 13 points. The Eagles turned the ball over with 6.9 seconds left, when a three-pointer would have forced overtime.

"We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch, and were a step behind on too many loose balls," coach Fang Mitchell said. "At that point in the game, we need to step it up."

Coppin State had a 30-26 lead three minutes into the second half, but Delaware State went on a 9-0 run, then watched the Eagles hurt themselves.

Mitchell has one of the deepest teams in the MEAC, but he benched point guard Darryl Roberts for the third straight game and reserve forward Julian Conyers for a fourth straight. Mitchell said both players were academically eligible and described their inactivity as a "coach's decision."

The Eagles were also without reserve guard Ruben Britt, who's healing a hand injury, but a thinner rotation nonetheless carried out the game plan against an opponent that has moved to the top of the MEAC using the Coppin State template.

Like Mitchell, Hornets coach Greg Jackson had his team hitting a hard road before MEAC play, as Ken Pomeroy's online simulation of the NCAA's Rating Percentage Index ranks Delaware State and Coppin State as playing the nation's fifth- and seventh-toughest nonconference schedules, respectively.

Like Mitchell, Jackson stresses patience at the offensive end, schemes that took the Hornets to the NCAA tournament in 2005 and the National Invitation Tournament last year.

Foul trouble slowed senior wing Jahsha Bluntt, the MEAC's preseason Player of the Year, but Roy Bright, a 6-foot-6 forward who began his college career at Cincinnati, had 16 points and three-year starter Troy Roundtree had 10 of his 12 in the second half, most on put-backs.

With Mitchell starting four guards and using no one taller than 6-7, the Eagles need to be more committed to crashing the boards.

Antwan Harrison led the Eagles with 13 points, but when they needed a three to tie at the end, he passed the ball to Robert Pressey, the only Eagle on the floor without an attempt beyond the arc this season.

Junior guard Tywain McKee didn't attempt a field goal until the 17th minute, then on a put-back. McKee was limited to four shots and four points, 14 below his MEAC-leading average.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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