NCAA News Wire

Coppin State tops Bethune-Cookman in MEAC tourney opener

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NORFOLK, Va. — So much for the Coppin State Eagle’s opening round blues.

The seventh-seeded Eagles sped off on a 7-0 run inside the final two minutes to snap a 68-68 tie and defeat the No. 10 Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 75-68 in the first round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday night at the Scope.

The victory snapped Coppin State’s five-game conference tournament losing streak. The Eagles’ last postseason victory came in the 2009 MEAC Tournament quarterfinals.

“That first-round curse has been haunting me,” said Eagles senior guard Michael Murray, who played all 40 minutes, led all scorers with 24 points and became the 21st Eagle to reach 1,000 career points. “It’s a big burden off my shoulders getting that first win. Now I feel like we can keep on rolling.”

The Eagles (11-19) will face No. 2 seed Hampton in the quarterfinals Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Bethune-Cookman quickly fell behind 6-0 and was never able to get a lead. But the Wildcats stayed within range and pulled even three times, the last after guard Clemmye Owens made a mid-court steal and went in for a layup to even things at 68 with 2:13 remaining.

The Wildcats would not score another point, though. The Eagles, meanwhile, took the lead for good on a free throw by forward Dallas Gary with 1:48 left. Then on their next possession, guard Daquan Brickhouse nailed a slick turnaround jumper in the lane to make it a three-point game.

“That was gutty on his part, because he wasn’t afraid to take that shot,” Eagles coach Ron Mitchell said. “Brick is the kind of guy that will do that.”

The dagger came on Coppin State’s next trip when guard Sterling Smith nailed a 3-pointer with 28.1 seconds remaining.

“Three-point game, seven seconds on the shot clock and he hits that corner three,” Bethune-Cookman coach Gravelle Craig said. “That was a big shot.”

Coppin State forward Arnold Fripp supplemented Murray’s efforts with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Brickhouse chipped in 12 points and five assists and Gary had 10 points for the Eagles.

Owens finished with 22 points and guard Maurice Taylor added 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Wildcats (7-25). It was Taylor’s first double-double, but the junior was hardly satisfied.

“If I had had one more rebound, maybe we’d have won the game,” Taylor said. “So I still need to get better.”

It was the Murray show early. The Coppin State guard opened the game with a mid-range jumper and went on to score 16 of his team’s first 20 points, including 14 in a row.

The Eagles expanded their lead to as many as 10, but Owens led a spirited late charge that got the Wildcats to within two points at the half.

Owens converted turnovers into back-to-back fast-break layups inside the final 90 seconds, and a layup by forward Allan Dempster with 25 seconds left sent Bethune-Cookman into the break trailing 40-37.

Murray’s 16 first-half points led Coppin State, which shot 58.8 percent from the field. But Coppin State also committed nine turnovers that Bethune-Cookman turned into 11 points.

Owens scored 15 first-half points to lead Bethune-Cookman.

NOTES: Before the game, Coppin State senior G Michael Murray was honored at midcourt after being selected to the All-MEAC first team. … The game was a rematch of a first-round encounter in last year’s MEAC tournament in which Bethune-Cookman prevailed 89-78. The two teams did not face each other this season. … Coppin State made at least 10 3-pointers in nine games.