The last time Coppin State won a game at the Towson Center, Fang Mitchell was in the seventh year of his 26-year reign as the Eagles head coach and on the way to an undefeated season in conference play and a second NCAA tournament.
The Eagles ended the 20-year drought Wednesday night by making some clutch shots in the closing seconds for a 64-61 victory. Coppin State's Michael Murray, who entered the game second in the nation with seven double doubles, finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Patrick Cole also had 16 points for Coppin State. Troy Franklin made his return to the Towson Center after transferring to Coppin State and finished with five points.
Marcus Damas led Towson with 16 points, while Jerrelle Benimon has been hampered with a left ankle injury and finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Coppin State had not won at Towson since a 79-74 victory on Dec. 12, 1992 — the season the Tigers won the Big South regular season championship. Towson leads the all-time series 6-5, but has lost to the Eagles for the second consecutive year.
"To be honest with you, I can't recall when we won, but I can tell you we needed a win today," Mitchell said. "We've been getting good starts, but finishing games has been tough for us. It was just great today to have the opportunity and to see these guys battle through that and win the game."
With the Eagles clinging to a 60-59 lead in the final 38 seconds, Murray made a jumper to increase the lead to three. The Tigers got the ball with 24.2 seconds left and pulled to within one on a layup by Damas. Murray was fouled with 8.2 seconds remaining and he made both of his free throws to increase the lead to 64-61. Damas' 3-point attempt at the buzzer clanged off the rim and Coppin State prevailed.
The Eagles improved to 3-9, but that includes tough road losses to USC, Texas and No. 6 Indiana.
Towson (4-8) led for almost the entire first half until a 3-pointer by Cole gave Coppin State a 19-18 lead with 5:23 remaining. The Eagles maintained that lead the rest of the way and a free throw by Sterling Smith gave the Eagles a 24-22 lead at the break.
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half. Coppin State shot just 28.6 percent (10-35). The Tigers were not much better, making just 9 of 28 field-goal attempts (32.1 percent).
The second half was played as evenly and neither team led by more than three points with 13:17 remaining. Timajh Parker-River gave Towson the biggest lead of the game, 40-35, when he converted a free throw while making a short jumper.
However, the Eagles answered with a 3-pointer by Frankin and a pair of free throws by Andre Armstrong, tying the game at 40.
With the momentum, Coppin State dictated play and a pair of 3-pointers by Cole and another by Armstrong later gave the Eagles a 58-51 lead with 3:47 left.
Towson pulled within 60-57 on 3-pointers by Damas and Kris Walden with 1:53 remaining. Benimon then cut it to one on a put-back 30 seconds later to set up the late-game drama.
"There were times tonight when we played a lot faster than we should," Towson coach Pat Skerry said. "I am surprised that we turned it over so poorly this year. It's destroying us. We need some guys who can pass, catch and dribble and make good decisions because right now we're not."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun