NORFOLK, Va. -- Top seed Coppin State rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to hold off No. 8 seed Howard, 65-57, and advance to the semifinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament yesterday at The Scope.
The Eagles won their 14th straight game and extended their record over MEAC opponents this season to 17-0, none of which seems to matter to Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell.
"We don't worry about any of that stuff," Mitchell said. "We're still playing. That's all I care about."
Tariq Saunders led Coppin with 16 points, and Stephen Stewart added 12. But the Eagles won because of an aggressive defense that held the Bison to 32 percent (10-for-18) shooting in the second half.
They also won despite a poor first half: missing nine three-point ,, attempts and hitting just 29 percent of their field-goal attempts.
"A lot of the guys were nervous," Coppin guard Sidney Goodman said. "This is the first tournament for a lot of them."
First-round jitters apparently didn't affect the Bison. Center Charles Solomon ruled the paint with 10 points and 13 rebounds, and the defending tournament champions took a 33-25 lead into the break. It was only the second time this season Coppin has trailed a MEAC opponent at the half.
"But we didn't panic," Goodman said. "We knew what we needed to do."
"We saw that their guards were tentative," Goodman said. "They're afraid to dribble if you put the pressure on."
Coppin's defense pressure resulted in five second-half charging fouls by the Bison. Overall, Howard was hit with 14 second-half team fouls, and the Eagles took full advantage as they made 16 of 18 from the line in the final 20 minutes.
"They had 18 second-half free throws, and we had seven," Howard head coach Butch Beard said. "They were behind. Interesting, isn't it? That's my comment."
Howard guard Milan Brown, a first-team All-MEAC selection, drew two of the second-half charging calls, including his fourth personal less than six minutes into the half.
"Milan's their leader," Coppin guard Sidney Goodman said. "Without him, they kind of fall apart. When he went out of the game, that's when we really picked up the intensity."
Brown sat down with 14:08 remaining, but the Bison refused to fade. A three-pointer by guard Tommy Brown and a baseline jumper by forward Cory Beard preserved a seven-point Bison lead with just under 13 minutes to play.
But the Eagles responded with their only two three-pointers of the game, by Marcus Robinson and Sidney Carmichael, to pull to within one, and a pair of Carmichael free throws allowed Coppin to go ahead.
Howard tied the game at 49 with a little less than four minutes to play, but a layup by center Michael Thomas (his only points of the game) off a feed from Goodman with 3:39 left gave the Eagles the lead for good.
(At The Scope, Norfolk, Va.) Thursday
Howard 86, Bethune-Cookman 72
Coppin State 65, Howard 57
Florida A&M; 90, Morgan State 87
Delaware State 88, N.C. A&T; 79
S. Carolina State 59, UMES 57
Coppin State vs. Florida A&M;, 5 p.m.
Delaware State vs. S.C. State, 7 p.m.
Championship game, 3 p.m.