Stewart leaves Coppin fans final keepsake


The lighting is more than adequate, and there are no dead spots on the hardwood floor that a visitor must learn. More than half of the 3,000 seats at the 5-year-old Coppin Center are usually empty, and coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell often complains that the officials don't accord his Eagles the respect they've earned at home.

Last year it was dubbed The Zoo, but that could have something to do with its proximity to Druid Hill Park.

No, it isn't the atmosphere that does in visitors to Coppin State, it's the personnel. That was driven home with authority last night, when an 85-70 defeat of South Carolina State doubled as the Eagles' 23rd straight at home and a tribute to forward Larry Stewart, guard Reggie Isaac, center Larry McCollum and inside reserve Joe Hammond.

It was Coppin State's final home game of the season, and Stewart made the most of his last appearance in Baltimore, his home away from Philadelphia, with a school-record 40 points. The only ingredient missing was Mitchell, who the day before underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor on his back. He could return as early as next week, and assistant Derek Brown is in charge for now.

Stewart's play could be heard all the way to Mitchell's room at Union Memorial Hospital, as the 6-foot-8, sinewy leaper left 1,138 fans with a memorable night of 13-for-18 shooting, 17 rebounds and a pair of blocks. Afterward, he was at the center of souvenir photos at midcourt involving family and teammates.

"That was not just another game," Stewart said. "That's the last time I'll play here, and we're all worried about Fang. Don't forget, we lost down there too."

A Jan. 3 three-pointer at South Carolina State remains Coppin State's only loss in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Eagles slipped at New Orleans three days later, but they since have won 13 straight to climb to 17-8 overall, 13-1 in the MEAC.

RTC Coppin State clinched its second straight regular-season title last night, and South Carolina State (11-13, 8-5) and seven other teams know it will be a huge upset if the Eagles don't gain their second straight NCAA berth at the MEAC tournament Feb. 27-March 2 at the Norfolk Scope.

Stewart, one of the top candidates for the John B. McLendon Trophy that goes to the outstanding player from a historically black college, is playing even better than last season, when he was the MEAC Player of the Year. He's averaging 24.2 points on 63.2 percent shooting and 13.5 rebounds.

"He's one of the best I've ever seen in this league," said South Carolina State's Cy Alexander, who's coached in the MEAC since 1976. "He deserves a chance to play at the next level. I know he ate us up tonight."

In just three years, Stewart has piled up 1,713 points and 987 rebounds. He'll have six days to think about getting the 1,000 rebounds he's long sought, since the Eagles are off until next Wednesday, when they play at North Carolina A&T.;

The evening wasn't quite as artistic for Isaac, who raised his career scoring total to a school-record 1,839 points with a sub-par output of 16. He missed the last 12:44 of the first half with two fouls, one reason Coppin State struggled for 38 minutes before quieting the pesky Bulldogs. Isaac's average dropped to 24.5.

McCollum, the burly center, had a superb defensive game, getting three blocks and three steals in 39 minutes along with eight points and three rebounds. In four years he's accumulated 893 points and 626 rebounds. He needs five more boards to become Coppin State's No. 2 all-time, and he also ranks second to Stewart in career blocks.

Hammond didn't get in. South Carolina State, which plays at Morgan State tomorrow (8 p.m.), got 31 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Travis Mitchell.


Home sweet home

The nation's longest winning streaks at home

Arizona . . . . . . . . . .59

UNLV. . . . . . . . . . . .30

New Mexico State. . . . . .29

East Tennessee State. . . .27

Southern. . . . . . . . . .27

Princeton. . . . . . . . . 23

Wright State. . . . . . . .23

Coppin State. . . . . . . .23

Northeast La. . . . . . . .21

Kentucky. . . . . . . . . .18

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