Coppin State toyed with Morgan State early, seemed to lose interest, then burst ahead for an 83-68 victory in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game last night before 5,459 at Hill Field House.
"Morgan State came to play 40 minutes," said Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell. "I'm not so sure we were here to play 40 minutes. After we got the early lead [27-10], we started to play as individuals and that's when we always get into trouble."
Mitchell said the Eagles (13-8, 9-1) also stopped playing good defense late in the first half and early in the second half when Morgan State outscored the visitors, 31-17, to gain a tie at 48 with 14 minutes, 48 seconds left in the game.
"We didn't realize we had to play until Morgan tied the game," said Mitchell, whose team ran its winning streak to nine.
Coppin hit Morgan (4-17, 4-6) with a little bit of everything when the game was on the line.
There was a Larry Stewart slam here, a Reggie Isaac slicing drive there and a Larry McCollum muscle move inside for a layup.
Stewart, Isaac and McCollum led Coppin on an 11-0 run late in the game that took the remaining fight out of the Bears, who were paced by Glenn Smith.
The 11 consecutive points gave Coppin a 76-60 lead with 4:45 remaining.
Coppin had pulled away to 62-52 lead midway through the second half before Morgan fought back again to trail, 65-60, and set the stage for the Eagles' game-deciding run.
Stewart led Coppin with 22 points and 13 rebounds, McCollum had 20 points and seven rebounds and Isaac had 20 points.
That was far too much for Smith and the Bears to overcome.
Morgan State coach Michael Holmes couldn't argue with Smith's game-high 25 points, but the first-year Bears coach felt Smith forced too many shots at crucial times.
"Glenn made me mad because he took some bad shots," said Holmes. "But he also did a lot of good things for us."
Holmes said that Smith's play was "typical of our inexperience."
Though it appeared as if Coppin could turn the energy on and off at will, Holmes didn't see the game that way.
"I thought we had them guessing in the second half," said Holmes. "It was a game we could have won, but we wound up beating ourselves. I'm looking for leadership and guys who have a lot of mental stamina. I don't think we had either of those things tonight [last night]."