Shot falls, so does Coppin in MEAC semifinal, 55-53


RICHMOND, Va. - And then there were none.

The last remaining Maryland school striving to reach the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's semifinals was knocked out last night when Florida A&M;'s Demarcus Wilkins hit a driving jump shot at the buzzer to eliminate Coppin State, 55-53, at the Richmond Coliseum.

Coppin was trying to run down the clock for a final shot to win the game when Wilkins tied up Darryl Jones for a jump-ball call. The arrow favored the Rattlers and Wilkins drove the length of the court and pulled up at about 10 feet.

His attempt appeared ready to bounce off the back of the hoop and go awry, but the ball stuck with a thud and dropped in to give Florida A&M; its fifth straight victory.

"The play was designed to hit Terrence [Woods], but we really didn't have time to go to Terrence. I was cut off," said Wilkins. "I didn't want to go to overtime any more. We had had enough of that.

"When I pulled up, I thought the horn was going to go off, but it didn't. I thought the ball was going to roll off, but we got a lucky bounce."

It was a heartbreaker for the Eagles, who had led most of the way in a grind-it-out game with the tempo that they favor. Coppin led 49-41 with 3:36 remaining before two offensive fouls against the Eagles, a five-second violation and a Rattlers steal changed the complexion of the game.

Instead of killing the clock with its deliberation, Coppin was struggling to hang on.

"We know they are a high-scoring team and we made them cherish every possession," said Eagles coach Fang Mitchell. "With 3:36 to go, this team had 41 points, so we did a tremendous job all night.

"But it's all about closing. We made some bad decisions down the stretch and they hurt us. We just have to do a better job of finishing."

Coppin (12-16) split two overtime games with Florida A&M; during the regular season, each winning on the opposing court. In the second game, Woods, the national leader in three-point shots, hit 12 threes, a MEAC record.

But the Eagles did a decent job of containing the all-MEAC guard, although he finished with 22 points. The last three came on a huge shot that tied the game at 53 with 1:05 to play.

"We've had three great games with them," said Rattlers coach Mike Gillespie. "Sometimes, you have to get lucky to win one like that. I think in that final 3:36 we guarded people as well as we have all year and that was key."

Jimmy Boykin had 22 points to lead the Eagles.

"We had a lot of unknown situations with only three players back," Mitchell said in summarizing the season. "We battled all season and Larry Tucker [eight points last night] provided the leadership to show the new players the way to go. I'm proud of this team."

FLORIDA A&M-; White 2-5 3-5 7, Wilkins 4-10 2-2 10, Woods 6-14 5-6 22, Zamore 0-0 0-0 0, Hill 3-4 4-6 10, Kelly 0-1 0-0 0, Griffith 1-5 1-1 3, Ayodele 0-1 0-0 0, Cisse 0-1 0-0 0, Sumter 1-3 1-3 3.

Totals 17-44 16-23 55.

COPPIN ST. - Thompson 0-3 4-4 4, Tucker 2-7 4-6 8, Boykin 7-13 5-6 22, Scott 1-5 2-2 4, Colter 2-2 0-1 4, Muhammad 1-2 0-0 2, Bradley 1-3 0-0 2, Jones 3-6 0-0 7. Totals 17-41 15-19 53.

Half -Coppin St., 23-20. 3-Point goals-Florida A&M; 5-18 (Woods 5-10, White 0-1, Ayodele 0-1, Griffith 0-2, Wilkins 0-4), Coppin St. 4-9 (Boykin 3-7, Jones 1-1 Thompson 0-1). Fouled out-Ayodele. Rebounds-Florida A&M; 25 (Woods 5), Coppin St. 30 (Boykin 7). Assists-Florida A&M; 2 (White, Wilkins 1), Coppin St. 8 (Scott 5). Total fouls-Florida A&M; 19, Coppin St. 24. Technicals-Coppin St. A-N/A.

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