Howard University gave Coppin State a lesson in fundamental basketball en route to its eighth straight victory, 82-54, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game last night at Burr Gymnasium.
The Bison (10-5, 4-0 conference) led the smaller Eagles (5-11, 3-2) by only 52-47 with 13 minutes to play before running off a five-minute, 16-3 spurt.
Mike Hampton led the Bison with 17 points, followed by 14 each from Robert McIlwaine and Derek Caracciola. McIlwaine also had 10 rebounds and Fred Hill had 10 points and six assists.
Howard forced the tiring visitors into numerous mistakes (24 turnovers) and shot better than 80 percent during the blitz that pushed the Bison's margin from five points to 20, 76-56, with 4:25 left.
"That was just good basketball. There was nothing I could say to the players except they did exactly what I wanted them to do," said Bison Coach A.B. Williamson. "I can't single anyone out. Everyone understands their role and they came in and produced. This is what I've been waiting for."
Even Coppin State Coach John Bates was impressed. "They played well and forced us into errors," he said. "You can't turn the ball over as many times as we did and win. It seemed we got to 49 and stayed there."
The Eagles were in deep trouble before they reached 49. Coppin trailed, 40-35, at the half and was still in the game after a layup by the Eagles' Steven Miller made it 52-47 at the 13:04 mark.
But three turnovers resulted in two free throws by McIlwaine, a followup shot by Earl Smith and an off-balance scoop bank shot by William Stuart to increase the lead to 58-47.
"The press was designed to slow them down more than get steals," McIlwaine said. "We just wanted to see what they could do against the press."
Said Hill: "They had only the one point guard Miller and we tried to keep the pressure on him."
Ronald Conway's short base-line jumper temporarily halted the Bison spurt. But Coppin was having trouble getting across midcourt.
McIlwaine, the trailer on the Bison's break, tipped in a missed shot and put in a dunk, Stuart had a layup and Caracciolo dunked another one to make it 66-49.
McIlwaine had two more dunks and Jeff Williams, the Bison's fourth guard, made two free throws and the Bison had a 72-52 lead.
"We kept the press on them and just wore them down," Williamson said. "Last year, they came in here and beat us 61-60 and we were determined not to let up tonight."
Coppin State, which started three players 6 feet 5, was at a decided height disadvantage. But the hustling first-year MEAC members did a good job under the boards and turned a few offensive rebounds into points. But the Eagles' best inside player, Mark Carroll, turned his ankle trying to stop a Howard layup and left the game with 11:04 left in the first half. The junior had six points and two rebounds. He tried to play in the second half but was ineffective, finishing with eight points and three rebounds.
"If we have him, it's a different game," Bates said. "He's our inside strength and Howard would have had a problem stopping him."
When Carroll went down, the visitors had a 17-14 lead. The advantage reached three points, 21-18, after two free throws by Earl Lee, with 8:47 left.
The Bison then went to the full-court press and forced five turnovers and two missed shots in four minutes. While Coppin was trying to regain its poise, Howard outscored the Eagles, 12-2, for a 30-23 lead with five minutes left in the half.
But the Eagles fought back, getting a three-point play from Miller (15 points) and baskets from four others to cut Howard's lead to five points at intermission.