No. 2 South Carolina (24-7) vs. No. 15 Coppin State (21-8)


What: First round, NCAA East Regional

Where: Pittsburgh Civic Arena, Pittsburgh

When: Today, 2: 45 p.m. (30 minutes after Game 1)

TV: Ch. 13

How they got here: Coppin got an automatic bid as the champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Eagles won the automatic bid by defeating North Carolina A&T;, 81-74, on Saturday in the MEAC title game. South Carolina got an at-large bid. The Gamecocks finished first in the SEC East Division before they were eliminated by Georgia in an SEC tournament semifinal.

Conference record: Coppin was 15-3 in the MEAC and won the regular-season championship; South Carolina was 15-1 and won the SEC.

Ranking: Coppin is not ranked; South Carolina is ranked sixth.

NCAA tournament record: Coppin is 0-2, losing in the first round in 1990 (Syracuse) and 1993 (Cincinnati). South Carolina, making its sixth tournament appearance, is 4-6 with first-round losses in its past two appearances in 1974 (Furman) and 1989 (North Carolina State). The Gamecocks have reached the regional semifinals three times (1971, 1972 and 1973).

Coaches: Fang Mitchell is 204-119 in 11 years at Coppin. Eddie Fogler is 62-55 in four years at South Carolina, and 204-135 overall.

Key matchups: Coppin point guard Danny Singletary against Melvin Watson, who triggers South Carolina's three-guard attack. Also Coppin guard Antoine Brockington, the team's leading scorer, will have to become defensive-minded against either of the Gamecocks' two leading scorers, B.J McKie (17.4 ppg) or Larry Davis (16.4 ppg). If the Eagles are able to get the ball to center Terquin Mott, he could have a big day against a front-line that is not at all dominant.

What Coppin has to do to win: Slow the South Carolina backcourt. The Gamecocks go only as far as its backcourt, and the guards have been very good for a team that twice beat Kentucky during the regular season. The Eagles, who have looked vulnerable of late against the press, have to attack the basket if South Carolina goes with a full-court press.

What South Carolina has to do to win: Continue to shoot well from the perimeter, especially McKie (40.9 percent from three-point range) and Davis (38.9 percent). The Gamecocks, who played exceptionally well over the last half of the season, can't resort to their play in December when they lost to North Carolina-Asheville and Charleston Southern.

Bottom line: That the Gamecocks were dominant in a solid SEC would make this game appear to be a rout. But Coppin could have faced more difficult first-round opponents. The Eagles will be able to make this competitive if they remain cohesive and play to their capabilities.

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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