RALEIGH, N.C. - Robert Pressey scored on a dunk following a missed shot and Tywain McKee canned two free throws to help Coppin State hold off Howard University, 55-54 in the first round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's tournament at the RBC Center. The Number 7 seed Eagles (13-20) advance to the quarterfinal round against Number 2 seed Hampton on Wednesday at 9:30 pm.
The Bison (6-27), the Number 10 seed, trailed most of the game and was behind 44-35 with just under 11 minutes in the second half. Then Curtis White led a 16-7 run by Howard that tied the game at 51-all with 2:09 remaining.
Howard played solid defense on Coppin State's ensuing possession and forced a bad shot that Pressey cleaned up to make it 53-51 with 1:44 remaining. Both teams failed to produce on successive possessions, but the Bison still had a chance to tie the game. Howard ran a play but failed to get a shot off and McKee was fouled with seven seconds remaining. An 88 percent shooter on the season, McKee sank both free throws to up the margin to 55-51. White hit a three pointer from the right corner at the buzzer to close out the scoring.
"We settled for a lot of jumpers when we could have gone to the basket," said Howard Coach Gil Jackson. "I think that was the key. We have to do a lot better job of keeping our heads in the game. This is something that we have been dealing with all season long. Coppin played tough and went the extra mile and took advantage of the opportunity."
The Eagles enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams, having now won 9 of their last 10. The formula has been some tough defense and the resourceful scoring of McKee, a first team All-MEAC selection.
"We knew we had to bring the energy; that was the only way we were going to win this game," explained McKee, who also had 6 assists and only one turnover in 39 minutes of play. "We were confident that our defense would step up down the stretch."
A sophomore guard from Indianapolis, White scored a career-high 18 points, 12 coming in the second half. Eugene Myatt, the team leading scorer with almost 15 per game, contributed 12 on 4 of 12 shooting. The Bison, who have only one senior on the roster, were again hurt by turnovers as they committed 20 that the Eagles turned into 17 points.
"It was a hard fought game," said White. "We did not want to go out like that, but sometimes that is the way things fall. We just have to learn from the experience and be better next year."