Coppin State’s Nendah Tarke had made 3-pointers from halfcourt before, but never to win a game.
Tarke, a redshirt freshman point guard, drilled a shot from several feet behind the halfcourt line with no time remaining to propel the visiting Eagles to a 79-76 win Saturday night against Morgan State before an announced 1,431 at Hill Field House.
Tarke collected an inbounds pass from redshirt junior power forward Tyree Corbett, took one dribble and launched the ball off the backboard and through the rim to set off a raucous celebration in Coppin State’s end of the floor.
“I always make a couple [in practice],” he said. “I always knew that if I had a chance to do it in a game, I wanted to take that shot. I’m just glad I had the opportunity and made it.”
Tarke, who amassed 22 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, said he wasn’t sure his shot was on-target.
“It’s a pretty surreal feeling because I thought it was left,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going in. Before I knew it, everybody was on top of me. I was like, ‘Wow.’”
Eagles coach Juan Dixon said he had faith in Tarke.
“Nendah Tarke works on that shot every day in practice, and he’ll make three out of 10, four out of 10,” said Dixon, the former Maryland great. “And the coaches say, ‘Nendah, if we ever have an opportunity to make a halfcourt shot, you’re the one to shoot it.’ You can manifest these things, and they can happen just like you work on them every day. I’m so proud of our team. It was a great effort in the second half. We’ve got to do better on defensive rebounding. But I think our guys now feel how hard we need to play to have success in the [Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference].”
Tarke’s heroics capped a furious final 60 seconds. With Coppin State (3-14, 2-0 MEAC) nursing a 72-70 lead, senior guard Isaiah Burke drained a 3-pointer from the right elbow to give the Bears a 73-72 lead with 51 seconds left in the game.
On the ensuing Eagles possession, three attempts to take the lead ended with redshirt junior power forward Justin Steers tipping in the ball to give Coppin State a 74-73 lead with 37 seconds remaining. But Morgan State regained the lead at 75-74 after graduate student guard Keith McGee dropped in a floater from the left side of the paint with 18.1 seconds left.
Redshirt sophomore guard Jesse Zarzuela then hit a driving layup with six seconds remaining to give the Eagles a 76-75 lead. But Zarzuela fouled Burke on the ensuing possession, and Burke made the second free throw to knot the score at 76 with 1.5 seconds remaining.
After trailing 42-32 at halftime, Coppin State outscored the Bears 47-34 in the second half, committed nine turnovers to Morgan State’s 14 and made seven steals to the Bears’ three.
“You’ve got to play hard against a team like Morgan State,” Dixon said. “They’re scrappy, they’re tough, they’re well coached, a lot of grit to them. We’ve got to match their physicality and their intensity, and I think we did a better job of that in the second half.”
Junior shooting guard De’Torrion Ware had game highs in points (23) and rebounds (11) and added four steals for the Bears, while senior power forward Lagio Grantsaan finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. But Morgan State (6-8, 1-1) lost for the first time in seven games when leading at halftime this season.
Coppin State 67, Morgan State 65: The Eagles demonstrated the kind of character Laura Harper had hoped would develop.
Facing a one-point deficit in the final minute, the Eagles made four consecutive plays – two on offense and two on defense – to rally for a 67-65 win against host Morgan State on Saturday afternoon before an announced 568 at Hill Field House.
Trailing 63-62, redshirt freshman forward Colleen Bucknor flashed to the left side of the basket for a layup to give Coppin State a 64-63 lead. On the ensuing possession, Bucknor swatted away a layup attempt by junior guard Ja’Niah Henson (Roland Park). Rewarded a second chance, Bears senior forward Taylor Addison drove the lane, but was tied up by redshirt sophomore point guard Mossi Staples for a jump ball and change of possession with 13.2 seconds remaining.
Forced to foul, Morgan State sent graduate student small forward Jaia Alexander to the free-throw line. The Butler transfer missed the first attempt, but sank the second to extend the Eagles’ lead to 65-63.
After a Bears timeout, Henson inbounded the ball from halfcourt. But her pass was intercepted by Staples, who waltzed to an uncontested layup and a 67-63 advantage for Coppin State (7-7, 1-0 MEAC). Henson made a layup at the buzzer for the final score.
“I just saw that they weren’t too sharp with the ball, and my coach [associate head coach Jermaine Woods] told me yesterday, ‘If you see a steal you can get, go for it, go after it,’” said Staples, a Northeastern transfer who finished with game highs in points (21) and steals (four) and added five assists. “So I took my chance and went after it at the end of the game.”
Harper, the former Maryland standout, said the team had closed out the game the way she had hoped.
“I think they were so locked into possession by possession by possession,” she said. “Mos came with a different kind of intensity. Before this, she hadn’t made a three-pointer since the Georgetown game, and it’s hard for a shooter to go 2-for-2 from three, which is so big. Colleen got out of [coronavirus-related] isolation yesterday. So when you think about her being 10 days off from basketball and for her to play like that, I want that to be the epitome of who we are.”
The Eagles had dropped the last six meetings with Morgan State and 10 of the last 11, winning for the first time in the crosstown rivalry since March 11, 2019. Harper said she was happiest for longtime veterans like shooting guard Aliyah Lawson (five points, seven assists) and center Jalynda Salley (14 points, six rebounds).
“Aliyah Lawson and Jalynda Salley had never beaten them,” she said. “So for me, it’s about them and them trusting our process and trusting what we’re doing. It’s easy to start doubting when you’ve never done something. So I think it’s more for the morale of our program and where we’re trying to go.”
Junior shooting guard Adia Brisker led the Bears with 20 points and four rebounds, and Addison contributed 18 points and nine rebounds. Morgan State (6-5, 0-1) was playing its first game since Dec. 8 because of COVID-19 outbreaks within its program and some of its opponents.