Streaks. It's what Coppin State's basketball team is all about.
The Eagles won their 27th straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game, stretched their home winning streak to 17 and their current winning streak to eight by defeating Howard, 72-60, at Pullen Gymnasium last night.
But Howard coach Butch Beard was not overly impressed.
"I'm guaranteeing a win back at our place Saturday, and you can print it," the former NBA guard said. "They're not that good. Everyone is afraid of Coppin. They're a nice team that takes advantage of opportunities, but, believe me, they're beatable."
This one was anything but easy for the defending MEAC champions who needed the timely scoring and shot blocking of junior forward Michael Thomas and 16 second-half points from junior forward Stephen Stewart (19 points), who played only three minutes in a foul-marred first half.
"That was the beauty of this game," Coppin coach Fang Mitchellsaid.
"We had two of our best scorers -- Stewart and Keith Carmichael -- on the bench for most of the first half and still managed to get the lead. It's what I call a 'gut-check,' and we answered it tonight."
The Eagles (14-7, 8-0) also got a big assist from the officials who whistled Beard and his bench for two technicals early in the second half.
That completely changed the momentum.
The Bison, who had forged ahead 40-38, saw Coppin use the free throws on the technicals and eight points by Stewart to regain the lead, 57-46.
Howard (8-9, 5-3) closed to 63-57 on a three-pointer by junior guard Cory Beard, the coach's son.
Things got more sticky when Carmichael, Coppin's three-point specialist, fouled out with 4:04 remaining and also drew a technical. Tommy Brown's foul shot made it 63-58, but Thomas scored a slam dunk and had a timely block of a layup attempt by Brown.
The Eagles compensated for Stewart's absence in the first half by getting eight points from reserve forward/center Jerry Wysinger. A walk-on from Detroit, Wysinger had been averaging 1.4 points.
"The bottom line is that we held them to 60 points tonight," Mitchellsaid.
"We're the hunted since we won the conference title last year. Everyone in the MEAC is making Coppin its big game this year."
Beard, who bit his tongue over the officiating, said Coppin set the tempo from the opening jump.
"We just didn't play our game," he said.
"We were only down five at halftime, and that's after missing at least eight layups and nine free throws."
That trend continued in the second half. The Bison converted only 12 of 28 foul shots and could not make the big defensive stop after trailing by only five (63-58) with 4 minutes left.
Art Crowder led Howard with 12 points. Seven-foot junior center Grady Livingston contributed 11 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.