The Coppin State men's basketball team's 78-73 win against Oregon State Sunday was significant for the program, which had lost to a Pac-12 opponent in 16 previous meetings. It was even more important for the confidence that victory inspired in the players, coach Fang Mitchell says.
"With where we are right now with a lot of new faces, I do think that was a very meaningful win," Mitchell said Tuesday afternoon. "It made our kids believe that they can go out and win against some of the bigger schools. In the past, that was something that we were always capable of doing, but the kids didn't believe that things like this could be done. So I think it puts us in the right direction where we know we're capable of winning games, especially in the beginning of the year when it's very important to set the tone for what direction we want to go in. I know that this specific team does want to win. So that win was very important."
The Eagles opened the season with an 83-64 loss to California on Friday. But sophomore shooting guard Sterling Smith scored a career-best 21 points, and junior small forward Arnold Fripp chipped in 17 points and nine rebounds to spark the team to the win over the Beavers.
The result did not stun Mitchell.
"No, I'm never surprised because of the fact that I go into every game with the purpose of winning," he said. "The effort that we put in, the things we have to do, that's why we practice ahead of time. We want to be able to understand what the other team is going to try to do to us. But I'm not surprised about that. I'm really happy with the group that I have this year. They've really bonded together, and they like each other. That's a big first step. And they play for each other. Those are things that are going to be important later in the season. Being out here against some of these big schools, it's going to be important to be able to believe that you can win."
In related news, Mitchell said that senior small forward Michael Murray's broken right hand will be re-examined later Tuesday. Doctors will X-ray the hand to make sure that the bones are healing and to determine whether Murray needs to continue to wear a cast.
Even if the doctors give Murray the green light to practice without the cast, Mitchell said he is not expecting the team's leading scorer from last season (12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game) to return for at least a couple weeks.
"It's going to take a couple weeks for him to get into shape because it is his shooting hand," Mitchell cautioned. "It's something that is just not going to happen. He's going to have to work at it. He's been working on his left hand, but that isn't his true hand. So it's going to take some time. The way I look at it is he'll at least be back for conference time. It's two different seasons and how they play out here in the nonconference schedule is entirely different from how they're going to play in the MEAC."