Coppin State is mired in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, which would normally sound the alarm for Michael Grant. But the first-year coach is calm about the team's predicament.
The Eagles (1-12) haven't won since Dec. 1 when they routed Goldey-Beacom, 103-50. But Grant pointed out that Coppin State's schedule is rated as the 20th-strongest in Division I, according to ESPN.com.
"For a school of our size to have a schedule that strong is pretty good on our part as far as the way we're starting to play and the way we're starting to get better," he said Monday afternoon after the team had returned from Sunday's 85-80 loss at Evansville. "… I really think at the beginning of the year, out of a 40-minute game, we were probably getting 10 minutes of playing hard and playing together as a team and putting everything together.
"At this point in the season, I think we're up to about 30, 34 minutes. I think we're getting better. I think we're going to do a whole lot better when the conference starts. I think these guys are starting to get their legs underneath them and are glad to be off the road a little bit. I just really feel that we're going to do a whole lot better when we start playing teams on our level."
No one, especially Grant, enjoys losing. But Grant said the hope is that the adversity of the nonconference portion of the schedule will prepare the team for when the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference resumes Jan. 10 at Howard.
"We're really getting better at playing together as a team and starting to come together as a team," he said. "The main thing we've been preaching is that it's going to get better. We just need to hang in there and get through this nonconference schedule being on the road, and now we'll have an opportunity to balance this thing out. … They're really starting to come together. I'm really starting to see the difference between Day 1 and now."
Coppin State will play only its third home game of the season when Eastern Kentucky (6-5) visits the Physical Education Complex on Tuesday at 1 p.m. The Colonels dropped two of their last three games, but that one win was a 72-48 rout over then-No. 18 Miami on Dec. 19.
"This is a huge game for us," Grant said. "One of the things we've been preaching is, we want to make sure that we win at home, and we've already let one get away [in a 105-64 loss to Hofstra on Dec. 10]. So it's very important that we come ready to play. I gave them most of today off. We just got back here a couple hours ago, and I know their legs are tired.
"So I want them to be able to go back to their rooms and relax without any academics and be able to try to get their legs back. The only thing we'll do tonight is shoot around. But I think this is a very big game for us. … I think it would be a nice jump-start for us if we could get this game tomorrow."