Even though Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said his team "dug too big of a hole for itself" against visiting South Carolina State last night, the Eagles still had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.
However, Antwan Harrison's shot was blocked by Chris Miller-Williams and South Carolina State held on for a 63-61 victory at the Coppin Center.
Despite the loss, Coppin (11-15, 11-4) still leads third-place Bethune-Cookman by one game in the standings and could grab a first-round bye in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament if it can win its two remaining MEAC games.
Eagles sophomore guard Tywain McKee, who is third in the MEAC in scoring with 15.8 points per game, returned from a one-game suspension and finished with 15 points and three steals. The difference in the game was Coppin's trouble matching up with South Carolina State (10-14, 8-6) on the offensive end, where it was outscored 32-12 in the paint.
"I don't think we did a good job playing defense in the first half, where we gave up 36 points and that is not Coppin basketball," said Mitchell, whose Eagles trailed by eight at the break. "We are always competitive against them. It was a winnable game, but we didn't do what we had to do."
South Carolina State shot 49 percent from the field and also out-rebounded the Eagles 29-26.
After South Carolina State built its biggest lead, 55-43 with 11:31 left in the game, Coppin went on a 6-0 run to force the Bulldogs to call a 30-second timeout. While South Carolina State tried to slow the pace of the game, it still had trouble finishing its opportunities, allowing Coppin State to take advantage.
The Eagles completed their 18-6 run to tie the game with 1:35 left. Miller-Williams then made a layup to give South Carolina State the lead with 1:02 left. The teams then traded turnovers before Miller-Williams' block on Harrison sent three South Carolina State players to the floor to jump on the loose ball as time expired.
Darryl Proctor had a game-high 17 points for the Eagles and he said it was a game that Coppin should have been able to put away.
"We were the best team tonight, but we didn't show it," Proctor said. "It was just one of those nights. We were a little off tonight at home."
South Carolina State coach Ben Betts Jr. said he always expects a tough battle against Coppin and the key to the game was its defensive stops at the end of the game.
Derrick Davis had a team-high 14 points and seven assists for the Bulldogs.
"It was a much-needed win," Betts said. "We were able to do a good job defensively on some of their main guys."
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE-J.Carter 2-2 0-0 4, Zimmerman 4-8 0-1 9, Mason 4-9 0-0 8, Davis 4-8 4-5 14, Baker 2-6 2-2 6, Sago 2-7 0-0 6, Washington 0-0 0-0 0, Adams 1-1 0-0 2, Williams 5-6 2-2 12, Lee 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 24-49 10-12 63. COPPIN STATE-Norwood 1-3 2-3 4, Proctor 6-12 5-6 17, Bell 1-4 0-0 2, McKee 4-9 6-7 15, Woodlin 2-4 0-0 5, Roberts 1-4 2-2 5, Otis 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 2-3 0-0 6, Harrison 1-5 0-0 2, Chesnut 0-0 0-0 0, Pressey 1-1 3-6 5. Totals 19-45 18-24 61. Halftime-South Carolina State 36-28. 3-point goals-S. Carolina St. 5-12 (Davis 2-2, Sago 2-5, Zimmerman 1-1, Mason 0-2, Baker 0-2), Coppin St. 5-14 (Miller 2-3, McKee 1-1, Woodlin 1-2, Roberts 1-4, Proctor 0-1, Bell 0-3). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-S. Carolina St. 29 (Zimmerman 8), Coppin St. 26 (Proctor 6). Assists-S. Carolina St. 12 (Davis 7), Coppin St. 10 (Roberts 3). Total fouls-S. Carolina St. 20, Coppin St. 13. A-803.