Howard Falls to Coppin State
Washington, DC—February 23--Patrick Cole scored nine of his 14 points in the second half, including eight of his team's last nine points to help Coppin State pull away to a 63-56 win over Howard in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's game at Burr Gymnasium. The Eagles (6-22, 3-10 in the MEAC) snapped a seven-game losing skid while the Bison (6-22, 3-11 in the MEAC) lost their fourth straight.
Coppin State took advantage of some Bison turnovers and missed shots at the start of the second half to reel off a key 12-2 run that opened a 43-29 lead at the 16:11 mark. The run was led by Michael Murray and Tariq Cephas who combined for 10 of the 12 points.
"We didn't handle the pressure well at all," said a disappointed Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry. "Instead of attacking the pressure, we were very tentative and timid. We tried to use the skip pass to break down their pressure, but that led to turnovers and easy baskets for them."
The Bison's scoring problems were compounded by the absence of senior forward Mike Phillips, the team's leading scorer, who picked up his third foul at the 15:01 mark of the second half. Phillips, who averages over 13 points per game, got off to a fast start and he is usually the play who can help the Bison get baskets to stop runs.
"It's really disappointing and it really hurts our team," said Nickelberry of Phillips' foul trouble. "We are a different team when he is out of the game. We are forced to play guys out of position and it causes a couple of problems. It throws off our rhythm as a team, and his rhythm as a player. He is not the same guy when he returns to the floor from the bench."
With Phillips on the bench after picking up his fourth foul, the Eagles kept Howard at bay, maintaining a double-digit lead until the Bison mounted a furious comeback, fueled by a 17-6 run over an eight-minute stretch that cut the deficit to 54-50 with 3:40 still remaining. The rally was led by Tre Lee and Simuel Frazier who combined to score 12 of their team's points during the run. Frazier's three pointer capped off the rally.
"We got aggressive later in the game," explained Nickelberry. "We got some great looks. We just didn't make them. I tell the guys that we have to do the small things early so that we don't have to play catch up at the end."
The Bison were not able to get any closer as Cole made the plays down the stretch that enabled Coppin State to split with the Bison this season.
Murray led all scorers with 17 while Cole, Andre Armstrong and Taariq Cephas each scored 14 in a balanced attack.
Howard was led by Phillips, who recorded a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds despite foul trouble. Lee chipped in with 11 as did Anton Dickerson, who scored eight of his 11 in the first half. Frazier finished seven points, a career-high 11 rebounds and five assists.
Howard was able to hold a decided advantage on the boards with 49-38 edge, but 10 second half turnovers, 29 percent shooting (10 of 34) from the floor and too many missed free throws proved to be too much to overcome.
"It is really a tough loss," Nickelberry said. "We are probably below Coppin State now. I told the player before the game that we were playing a desperate team, so we would have match that. Now we are the desperate team. And we have to go out and play in a desperation mode for 40 minutes against the two teams (UMES on Monday and Delaware State in the regular season finale next Saturday."