Anthony Tarke and Koby Thomas made sure the Coppin State men’s basketball team did not end the weekend getting swept by crosstown and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference archrival Morgan State.
Tarke scored a team-high 21 points and Thomas added 19 to propel the visiting Eagles to an 89-79 victory Sunday afternoon at Hill Field House in Baltimore.
The win helped Coppin State improve to 4-9 overall and 3-1 in the conference, putting the program in at least a tie for first place atop the conference’s North Division. And the outcome made the Eagles’ 92-72 setback to the Bears the day before more palatable.
“We were down on ourselves, too, about how we played,” Tarke said. “We thought we could have played a lot harder on defense, and today, our whole mantra and the whole energy of the game was defense. That’s what we talked about.”
Coach Juan Dixon said he and his staff emphasized defense and excitement in a pair of meetings in the morning before Sunday’s game.
“If you have any type of pride as a player, when the coaches show you film, film doesn’t lie,” Dixon, the former Maryland standout, said. “The film says 1,000 words even though as a staff, we said a lot more this morning. We got in their eyes about the energy and effort. They went out, and they’ve got pride. They’ve got goals to play basketball after college, and you’ve got to go out and compete your [butts] off, and that’s what they did.”
While Coppin State hungered to even the series, Morgan State coach Kevin Broadus said his players failed to match their opponents’ energy levels.
“I thought our focus from the start wasn’t there,” he said. “I thought guys took them lightly and thought that because of how we played yesterday, they were going to roll over today, and they didn’t. They came in today and played extremely hard, and they beat us. I just thought we’ve got to get back to threw basics next week, and we’ve got to get back to playing hard and playing smart and playing together and limiting our turnovers. They just outplayed us today. There’s no excuses.”
Tarke, the redshirt senior shooting guard who transferred from UTEP to play with younger brother and freshman shooting guard Nendah, showed off his range, collecting 12 rebounds, six assists, five steals and three blocks.
Tarke made his presence known in the final 2:30 of the game. After junior shooting guard Trevor Moore drained a 3-pointer to tie the score at 77-77 with 2:49 remaining, Tarke drove into the paint and kicked the ball out to redshirt senior point guard Dejuan Clayton alone near the top of the key for an open 3-pointer with 2:22 left.
Sixty-two seconds later, Tarke drove into the paint again, drew two defenders, and deftly bounced a pass to Thomas for an uncontested dunk and an 82-77 advantage. Tarke then blocked Bears junior shooting guard Malik Miller’s layup attempt with 47 seconds remaining and converted three of four free throws in the final 30.3 seconds to cement the win for Coppin State.
“It’s what I’m called to be as a leader of this team,” said Tarke, who has now scored 1,010 points in his career. “Late in games, they want the ball in my hands to able to create for myself or create for my teammates. And defensively, you have to have that mentality of playing as if it’s your last game. That’s what I try to do in late-game situations.”
Thomas, a senior guard who chipped in six rebounds and three steals, scored 12 of his points in the first half for the Eagles. That was two more than he had scored in Saturday’s loss to Morgan State.
Tarke and Thomas got some much-needed help from their teammates. Redshirt sophomore shooting guard Kyle Cardaci scored 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Nendah Tarke had 11 points and four rebounds, and Clayton finished with nine points, eight assists and three steals.
As well as the offense played, Dixon paid more attention to the defense. After the Bears shot 52.5% overall, including 40% on 3-pointers, on Saturday, Coppin State held them to 35.2% overall and 29.7% from long distance on Sunday.
“When you’re in certain spots on the floor, we want to really pressure the ball and get into the ball,” he said. “We want to direct the basketball. And I just felt that we did a much better job of being physical at the point of contact. We’ve got to continue and build off of this.”
Sunday’s game lived up to the hype one would associate with a rivalry game between crosstown programs residing in the same city. Both Dixon and Broadus thundered at, encouraged, and cajoled their respective players to run their sets and play with enthusiasm during timeouts throughout the game.
And Coppin State redshirt freshman forward Kenan Sarvan and junior shooting guard De’Torrion Ware, playing his first season for the Bears after transferring from Jacksonville State, were assessed double technical fouls for chirping at each other after making dueling 3-pointers in a six-second span in the first half.
Miller and fellow junior shooting guard Trevor Moore enjoyed career performances for Morgan State (6-4, 2-2) with the former scoring a career-high 30 points and the latter contributing a career-best 27. Miller also had a career-high 12 rebounds and added four assists, and Moore collected five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
But no other player had more than six points. Ware, who had scored a game-best 29 points in Saturday’s victory and had averaged 20 points in his last four games, was limited to six points on 1-for-10 shooting, which included going 1-for-7 from three-point range.
Broadus said Miller’s and Moore’s teammates seemed content with letting those two pace the team.
“The other guys today looked like they were just walking through, going through the motions,” he said. “If you watched those two guys, they were giving their all every possession, and we needed a total effort. I always tell these guys, ‘If you’re not scoring, do something else.’ … We got to a point today where everybody was hunting for shots instead of going to get a rebound and putting a shot back up. It just didn’t work for us.”
NORFOLK STATE@COPPIN STATE
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