A little more than 12 hours later, coach Fang Mitchell didn’t even try to downplay the importance of the victory.
“It was as big as it could come,” he said Tuesday morning. “Being in that seven-game losing streak, you worry about people losing faith or starting to have doubt in their ability. We needed a win, and we needed one bad, and I think it did a lot for their confidence. It was a hard-fought battle, but they recognize now that each MEAC game is going to be difficult because we’re equally matched. We definitely needed that win yesterday for our confidence and to move forward.”
The Eagles improved to 5-11 overall and 2-1 in the league with their first win since Dec. 11, when they routed UMBC, 91-71. At that time, the team had a 4-4 record.
Despite the losing skid, Coppin State trails MEAC leader Norfolk State, which is 10-7 overall and 4-0 in the conference, by just 1 1/2 games in the race for the regular-season championship. Still, Mitchell said he is not worried about the Spartans or any other league rival.
“I don’t necessarily worry about keeping pace with anybody,” he said. “What I worry about is playing one game at a time, and with each game, we go out to win. It’s going to be a tough, long season, and like I said earlier, every game is going to competitive. On any given day, anybody can lose, but we can’t worry about that. That’s just from my years of experience being in the MEAC. Anything can happen. We just prepare ourselves for the one game, and the end result is what counts.”
The Eagles have been led by senior small forward Michael Murray (team leader with 16.0 points and 5.8 assists per game), senior shooting guard Andre Armstrong (second with 11.7 points) and sophomore shooting guard Sterling Smith (third with 10.6 points and first with 1.5 steals), but they are still searching for some consistency from the other two spots in the starting lineup.
During the team’s seven-game losing streak, six different players moved into the starting lineup. Mitchell said the shoulder injury that ended sophomore forward Zach Burnham’s season after five games has been costly.
“He was one of the guys that we were looking to compete for one of those starting spots,” Mitchell said. “So we’re still searching to find someone that’s going to show us what we need. We don’t have a whole lot of time left, and we might have to just platoon them based on who we’re playing against. We’re going to get some consistency, and it may be either in a platoon-type situation or it might just be the standard guys starting.”