In the midst of an early-season road show that so far has taken Coppin State to the likes of Oregon, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Connecticut, the Eagles made a rare stopover in the Baltimore area Tuesday night, still looking for coach Juan Dixon’s first win with the program.
Facing host UMBC, they found a team that might have lacked a big-time stature, but — at least in stretches — brought some of the same intensity in an 81-74 win.
Guard Jairus Lyles scored 27 points to move onto UMBC’s top-10 all-time scoring list, and forward Arkel Lamar added 14 points and 13 rebounds, as the Retrievers (7-5) used an 18-0 first-half run to gain control, then held off the Eagles’ second-half run.
“It was just a sense of urgency,” Lyles said. “They came out and punched us in the mouth first, so we knew we had to fight back and get back in the game. We knew that was a team that wasn’t supposed to be in the game with us, so we upped the intensity starting on the defensive end.”
UMBC, which has won six of eight, overall, had not beaten Coppin at home since Dec. 14, 1989, two days after the Eagles stunned Maryland at Cole Field House.
Karonn Davis scored 22 to lead four players in double figures for Coppin (0-11), which still must travel to West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Penn State before the end of the calendar year.
“We start the season with a travel schedule that’s out of control, so guys do lack a little energy,” said Dixon, the University of Maryland’s all-time leading scorer. “Of course I’m frustrated, because I felt like this is the game we could’ve won. That’s a good team, but I felt like we could get what we wanted offensively. That’s why we need to bring it and be tough on the defensive end. Once we figure that part out, we’re going to be a good team.”
Trailing by three midway through the first half, UMBC took command with an 18-0 run over the next six minutes. Lamar started the run by stepping out to hit a 3-pointer, then quickly extended the lead with a steal near midcourt and slam at the other end of the court.
Forward Joe Sherburne (15 points) quickly built the margin to 12 with back-to-back 3-pointers in a span of 31 seconds, then added a third, from the top of the key, to make it 40-25 with 2:32 left in the half.
The Retrievers’ defense kept them on top and they dominated the boards, limiting the Eagles to a single offensive rebound and no second-chance points in the half.
“We were really worried about this game. They’ve traveled all across the country playing really, really good teams,” UMBC coach Ryan Odom said. “We had two days of practice where we worked a ton on offense. We really focused on making multiple drives to the paint and sharing the basketball.”
After halftime, however, Coppin quickly got back into the game with its hot shooting.
Trailing by 19, the Eagles embarked on a 14-0 run of their own, punctuated by consecutive 3-pointers by reserve guard Lucian Brownlee to cut the lead to 48-43.
After a timeout, though, Lyles quickly put the Retrievers back in control with back-to-back threes from the corner. The senior, who sat out the game’s first 4:01 because of what Odom termed a “minor situation,” carried the Retrievers in the final minutes.
He scored eight in the final 4:36, to help UMBC once again gain separation after Coppin cut the lead to 63-60 on a 15-footer by Davis.
UMBC, which entered the night leading the nation in 3-point field goals made, finished 14-for-34 from beyond the arc, and has made at least 10 threes in 11 straight games.
Despite the brutal schedule, Dixon believes his team continues to show potential.
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“We’re a confident team. It’s just a matter of us going out and making winning plays, like getting to those loose balls, making the right pass, getting the key rebound, getting key stops,” Dixon said. “We’re getting there … but we’ve got to [compete] for longer stretches.”