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Seventh seed Coppin State upsets No. 2 Hampton in MEAC quarterfinal

BasketballCollege BasketballCoppin State UniversityCoppin State EaglesHampton PiratesRichmond Spiders

NORFOLK -- Hampton University’s momentum and formula for success were trumped by a team well-acquainted with adversity. As a result, the Pirates again made an early exit from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.

Seventh-seeded Coppin State’s smaller, quicker lineup gave Hampton problems, and the Eagles were more efficient late in an 83-77 win Wednesday in the tournament’s last quarterfinal at Scope.

“It was a tough, hard-fought ballgame,” HU coach Ed Joyner Jr. said. “We’ve been in these kind of ballgames all year. It just didn’t fall our way tonight. We went up late in the second half. We just missed shots. … It just didn’t fall for us at the end. Those things happen sometimes. We tried to use our defense to keep us in it and give us a shot at it, and it did, but the shots didn’t fall for us.”

Hampton fell in the MEAC quarterfinals as a higher seed in a tight game for the second consecutive year. But unlike last season, when Delaware State hit a prayer of a 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down, Coppin State's overall poise and efficiency were the difference.

The No. 2 seed Pirates (18-12) entered the tournament on a seven-game win streak and winners of 10 of their last 11. They squeezed opponents on defense, routinely rotated 10 players, and mixed and matched lineups to suit situations.

But Coppin State’s guard and wing lineup first created foul trouble, and then delivered, offensively and at the foul line. The Eagles shot 52 percent from the field in the second half – their 46-percent overall shooting was the best by an HU opponent since conference champ N.C. Central in early January.

Coppin State (12-19) played at Michigan, Gonzaga, Cal, Oregon State and Richmond when the Spiders were at full strength. The Eagles didn’t blink in a game that featured runs by both teams and decided in the final minute.

“It showed great basketball character, how everybody stuck together at the end,” said Coppin State guard Taariq Cephas, who led all scorers with 24 points. “The camaraderie was there, chemistry, nobody went individual, nobody went astray. We all stuck together. Even when we could have (given) them the game, we stuck together and that’s what championship teams do.”

Coppin State made 11 of its last 12 free throws, 19 of 24 in the second half and 29 of 41 for the game. Free-throw shooting and offensive balance helped offset a 47-35 rebound deficit and Hampton’s 24 offensive rebounds.

“You had to guard every position on the court,” Joyner said. “That is a rarity and it did cause a few problems tonight, but it has all year. We’ve been in two tough ballgames with them. … I think the last three minutes of the game, they made more plays than we did and you’ve got to give them credit for that.”

Du’Vaughn Maxwell led the Pirates with 17 of his 23 points in the second half, despite playing with a foot infection that caused him visible discomfort. He scored 11 in a row during one stretch and 15 of HU’s 18 points heading into the final minute. Guard Brian Darden (17 points) was the only other Pirate in double figures.

“I put my trust in my teammates,” Maxwell said. “I told Brian at halftime, knowing his offensive abilities, we’re going to start with him in the second half. He got us going and that got me going. I like to see my teammates go, so he starts to go in the second half and that’s what we needed to turn it around.”

Maxwell’s layup with 1:28 remaining gave the Pirates their last lead at 73-72. But Cephas was fouled on Coppin’s next possession and sank both free throws to give the Eagles the lead for good.

Deron Powers, limited to 19 minutes by foul trouble, missed a jump shot and Breon Key was unable to convert in the lane after grabbing the offensive rebound. Michael Murray hit two free throws to push Coppin’s lead to 76-73 with 55 seconds to play.

Consecutive turnovers eventually led to HU’s Ke’Ron Brown hitting 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to 76-74. The Pirates were forced to foul, and Cephas then hit two more free throws to extend the lead to four points. Powers missed a shot with 23 seconds remaining, and guard Daquan Brickhouse hit a pair of free throws at the other end for an 80-74 lead, and the Eagles closed it out.

Hampton overcame a six-point halftime deficit and led by five with five minutes remaining, but Coppin State made shots and grabbed timely rebounds.

“I don’t think we did a good job of converting buckets late,” Joyner said. “And I don’t think it was a lack of good looks. It just didn’t fall for us.”

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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BasketballCollege BasketballCoppin State UniversityCoppin State EaglesHampton PiratesRichmond Spiders
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