At halftime and early into the second period, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference leaders appeared in serious trouble.
Bethune-Cookman was outshooting Coppin appreciably, building a 15-point lead, and the Eagles were in danger of falling behind idle Norfolk State into second place in the MEAC.
But, as usual, Coppin entrusted its comeback effort to its trusty pressure defense. Bethune-Cookman's ball-handling and shot selection wilted in the heat and the Eagles held onto the top with a 65-61 victory before 850 at the Coppin Center last night.
The improved Wildcats were outscored 26-5 in one disastrous stretch to trail by six, but still had a chance at the end after Antonio Webb's fourth three-pointer left them down 63-61 with less than a minute to play.
After a Coppin turnover, Diondre Larmond rushed a three-point try from 22 feet that wasn't close, the Eagles gained the ball after it went out of bounds and Raheem Scott sealed the decision with two free throws.
"We were down to the last things left in our treasure chest to go against them," said Coppin coach Fang Mitchell. "The man-to-man pressure worked. But I really believe our captain [Nicholas King] stepped it up and took charge of the game and that's why we won."
King finished with 19 points, all but six of them in the second half, as Coppin (6-10, 6-1 MEAC) overcame 27.3 percent shooting in a first half that produced only six field goals.
"As long as we keep playing defense, we're all right," said King.
Bethune-Cookman (6-9, 3-3) has been one of the league's surprising teams, thanks to the additions of transfers like Webb (17 points) and forward Michael Williams (19 points, 10 rebounds), who combine to provide an inside-outside threat.
Wildcats coach Cliff Reed pointed to the disparity in free throws - Coppin was 18-for-26 to Bethune-Cookman's 4-for-6 - as the determining factor.
"We didn't match their intensity and the team that is the most aggressive usually shoots the most free throws," said Reed, whose team led 32-21 at the half and 46-31 before the Eagles stormed back. "When you play at Fang's place, he gets the benefit of the doubt. That obstacle is always there. Our team has to understand that.
"The parade of free throws changed the momentum to a slow crawl after we had gotten into a pretty good rhythm."
The Eagles are 37-6 all time against Bethune-Cookman and 16-2 at home. They usually struggle to score, but they are now 4-0 when they register at least 60 points.
It was a similar situation to last Saturday when Coppin had to rally to beat Florida A&M.;
"This can't continue," said Mitchell. "I want to be able to live without such stress."
BETHUNE-COOKMAN-Webb 6-14, 1-2 17, Taylor 3-7 0-0 7, Larmond 3-11, 0-0 8, Berry 0-2 2-2 2, Williams 9-12, 1-2 19, Crumbley 3-4 0-0 8, Carrier 0-1 0-0 0, Clayton 0-0 0-0 0, Brewew 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-51 4-6 61.
COPPIN ST.-Otis 2-4 0-0 5, King 5-13 6-6 19, Proctor 3-7 5-11 11, Scott 3-8 2-2 8, Daniels 3-6 2-3 8, Roberts 2-4 0-0 6, Yates 0-1 1-2 1, Woodlin 1-2 0-0 3, Harrison 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 20-47 18-26 65. Halftime-Bethune-Cookman 32, Coppin 21. 3-point goals-Bethune-Cookman 9-23 (Webb 4-8, Crumbley 2-3, Larmond 2-7, Taylor 1-4, Carrier 0-1), Coppin 7-15 (Roberts 2-3, King 3-5, Woodlin 1-2, Otis 1-3 Scott, 0-2). Fouled out-Yates. Rebounds-Bethune-Cookman 26 (Williams 10), Coppin 32 (King 6). Assists-Bethune-Cookman 16 (Crumbley and Carrier, 4), Coppin 10 (Scott 4). Total fouls-Bethune-Cookman 19, Coppin 15. A-850.