An 11-point edge at the free-throw line and some tough defense against Bethune-Cookman's Richard Toussaint carried the Eagles to a 70-65 victory at the Coppin Center, ending a three-game losing streak.
Four schools entered the night with 9-7 conference records and vying for two spots that will give them a day off in the tournament while the sixth through 11th finishers play off to gain the quarterfinals.
For Coppin (10-16, 10-7 MEAC), the idle time would be extremely welcome.
"We've really been going with seven players and an extra game can't benefit us in any way," said Eagles coach Fang Mitchell. "It's just the tiredness of playing four games to win the tournament."
"We haven't played good [in] back-to-back games most of the season," added forward Larry Tucker (Dunbar). "Not being in the play-in would help us a lot."
Bethune-Cookman jumped on the flat Eagles for a 13-2 lead at the onset, but Coppin fought back on torrid three-point shooting by Jimmy Boykin (24 points) and overtook the Wildcats by midway in the first half.
The advantage swayed back and forth until Tucker (24 points) spearheaded a Coppin charge that resulted in nine straight points before the break and a 37-30 advantage.
Freshman Deke Thompson, recently named to the All-MEAC Rookie Team, culminated the run with a steal and a layup just before the buzzer.
At the half, Bethune-Cookman (7-20, 5-12) had not been to the foul line while the Eagles were 11-for-14 and Touissant, the MEAC's No. 5 scorer, had only one field goal.
The Wildcats were not awarded any free throws until Touissant hit two with 5:37 left in the game and Coppin in command by a 62-47 margin.
"The guys who had the least amount to do with the ballgame decided it," Bethune-Cookman coach Cliff Reed said of the officials. "And we pitched in with unforced turnovers when the most important thing of all in basketball is possession."
Thompson's defense against Touissant also had a major role. The Wildcats star finished 2-for-13 from the field and managed double figures only because of six late foul shots.
Touissant's second and final field goal came early in the second half before the Eagles tore away with an 11-0 spurt to build a 53-35 cushion.
Two three-pointers by Maurice Riddick (19 points) completed the scoring and made the final margin seem closer.
Coppin plays Morgan Saturday in the regular-season finale.
BETHUNE-COOKMAN-Carter 3-10 0-0 7, Riddick 7-13 0-0 19, Ba 7-14 0-0 14, Toussaint 2-13 6-6 11, Williams 2-3 0-0 4, Reed 0-2 0-0 0, Picard 3-6 1-4 10. Totals 24-61 7-10 65.
COPPIN STATE-Thompson 4-10 4-4 12, Bradley 1-2 0-0 2, Tucker 8-16 8-9 24, Boykin 9-15 0-0 24, Scott 0-1 3-4 3, Jones 1-4 1-3 3, Colter 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 23-50 18-22 70.
Halftime-Coppin State, 37-30. 3-point goals-BC 10-24 (Picard 3-5, Riddick 5-9, Carter 1-4, Toussaint 1-5, Reed 0-1); CSC 6-13 (Boykin 6-10, Jones 0-1, Thompson 0-2). Fouled out-none. Rebounds-BC 34 (Ba 9); CSC 33 (Boykin 8). Assists-BC 14 (Carter 5); CSC 10 (Thompson 6). A-737.