That's why the Eagles took no solace from a two-point, last-second loss on the road against the nation's No. 22 team last night. Virginia got two free throws from freshman guard Mike Powell with one second left to avoid Coppin State's upset bid and take a 63-61 victory at University Hall.
"In our mind, moral victories don't exist," Coppin State guard Sidney Goodman said. "Every loss is hard, but this was different because we could taste it down the stretch. We thought we were going to win."
The Eagles went ahead 59-58 on Marcus Robinson's steal and basket with 56.9 seconds left, and forced the fifth and final tie of the last five minutes with 15.4 seconds left on Stephen Stewart's post-up move.
Powell, a freshman from Forestville who is looking for his first collegiate basket, was left unguarded on the left side in the final seconds. He followed up his own miss and was fouled by Goodman. After Powell made both free throws, Stewart could only get off a weak push shot from 90 feet.
It was the second narrow loss for the Eagles (4-3), who began the season with a two-point loss to Washington State in the San Juan Shootout. Nonetheless, coach Fang Mitchell had few complaints after missing out on his second win over an Atlantic Coast Conference foe, to go with the 1989 conquest of Maryland.
"We haven't been in a lot of games like this, and we need them if we're going to be successful down the road," Mitchell said. "We didn't box out like we should have at the end. That's the only thing I've got to complain about."
Virginia (3-1) returned most of the components from a team that went to the Sweet 16 last season and was the preseason pick to finish fourth in the ACC, but the Cavaliers were rescued by a freshman backcourt and a masked man.
Junior swingman Cornel Parker fractured two bones in his face in an eight-point win over Rice last Saturday and played only because a protective plastic face guard arrived from Illinois earlier in the day. In the first half, he limited Keith Carmichael, Coppin State's leading scorer, to two free throws. In the second, he guarded Stewart, who had 20 points in the first half, and held him to just five more.
The Cavaliers' leading scorer with 15 points was Harold Deane, who began starting after Corey Alexander fractured a bone in his right ankle in a season-opening loss against Connecticut. At the end he teamed with Powell, another rookie. All told, freshmen scored 19 of Virginia's 29 second-half points.
Deane's three-pointer with 32 seconds left put Virginia ahead 61-59. After Stewart tied it one last time, Powell became the unlikely hero.
Stewart had a game-high 25 points and led the Eagles with nine rebounds, but Parker's tenacity left him 2-for-8 in the second half. Goodman was the only other Coppin State player in double figures, with 11.
"This is a very good win for us," Virginia coach Jeff Jones said. "Coppin State gives you so many different looks [defensively]. I'm saying a lot of good things about Coppin State, and they're all true. I'll be shocked if they're not in the NCAA tournament."