The Coppin State men's basketball team has taken its lumps over the first two months of the season, but all those difficult games on the road against big-time programs may benefit the Eagles in the long run.
Last night, senior guard Jimmy Boykin registered a double double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore Nicholas King added a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds to lead the Eagles to a 59-55 victory over Florida A&M; at the Coppin Center.
With the victory, Coppin improved to 4-9, 2-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but coach Fang Mitchell and his players said afterward that they believe their record is hardly indicative of the team's talent.
The Eagles have suffered single-digit losses to powerhouse programs Missouri and Michigan State in the last month, and several on the team said they think the Eagles are good enough to make the NCAA tournament.
"That's what we're striving for," Boykin said. "We're much better than a 4-9 team. All our games have been on the road against big schools and it's tough to do that. It was a learning experience and it taught us to finish games out down the stretch. Don't give up and keep playing hard and that's how it went in our favor tonight."
Florida A&M; senior guard Demarcus Wilkins scored 17 of his 18 points in the second half to lead the Rattlers, who were the preseason pick to win the MEAC, but have started the season 1-9, 0-1. Wilkins had a shot to put to send the game into overtime with four seconds remaining in regulation, but his awkward, 17-foot, fade-away jumper rimmed out.
In the first half, Coppin went on a 15-3 run over the final 10 minutes to open a 29-19 halftime lead.
Florida A&M; came back quickly at the start of the second half as Wilkins scored 10 points, including hitting two three-pointers, in the first four minutes to bring the Rattlers within three. Wilkins hit his third three-pointer with 4:49 remaining to give A&M; its first lead of the half at 51-50 and cap a 12-2 Rattlers run after Coppin had built its lead back to nine.
Trailing 53-52 with under three minutes remaining, Boykin and King combined to score all of Coppin's final seven points, while the Rattlers managed just two.
"We've had to play on the road all the time, but from a confidence perspective, those games against those schools helped us," Mitchell said. "Four-and-nine doesn't mean anything to us."
FLORIDA A&M-Wilkins; 5-13 5-7 18, Tate 2-7 2-2 6, Woods 3-9 0-0 8, Harper 3-8 0-0 6, Russell 1-6 0-0 2, White 1-4 0-0 2, Kelly 1-6 2-2 4, Zamore 1-3 0-2 2, Sams 0-0 0-0 0, Ayodele 3-9 0-0 7. Totals 20-65 9-13 55. COPPIN STATE-Otis 1-3 0-1 2, Jones 1-6 2-2 4, King 7-10 4-5 19, Boykin 4-14 6-7 15, Colter 0-2 4-4 4, Bradley 1-1 1-2 3, Scott 2-8 0-1 6, Green 3-8 0-1 6. Totals 19-52 17-23 59. Half-Coppin State, 59-55. 3-point goals-Florida A&M; 6-24 (Wilkins 3-7, Tate 0-3, Woods 2-8, Kelly 0-2, Ayodele 1-4), Coppin St. 4-17 (Otis 0-1, King 1-2, Boykin 1-7, Scott 2-5, Green 0-2.). Fouled out-Harper. Rebounds-Florida A&M; 42 (Ayodele 11), Coppin St. 44 (Boykin 10). Assists-Florida A&M; 8 (Wilkins 3), Coppin St. 9 (King, Colter 3). Total fouls-Florida A&M; 23, Coppin St. 17. A-385.