Howard Comeback Bid Falls Short Against Coppin State

Freshman point guard 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 University Eagles secure a 63-56 win over Howard University Bison in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) men’s game at Burr Gymnasium in Washington, D.C.

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 several Howard turnovers and missed shots at the start of the second half to rack up a key 12-2 run that opened a 43-29 lead. The run was led by junior forward Michael Murray and sophomore guard Tariq Cephas, who combined for 10 of Coppin’s 12 points.

“We didn’t handle the pressure well at all,” said 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 and leading scorer Mike Phillips, who picked up his third foul at the 15:01 mark of the second half. Phillips averages more than 13 points per game, including clutch baskets to end opposing teams’ runs.

“It’s really disappointing and it really hurts our team,” Nickelberry said 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 a fourth foul, Coppin State 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. But Howard couldn’t get any closer as Cole helped pad the Coppin lead.

Murray led all scorers with 17 while Coppin junior guard Andre Armstrong and 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. Sophomore guard Simuel Lee chipped in 11 points, as did senior guard Anton Dickerson, who scored eight of his 11 in the first half. Frazier finished with seven points, career-high 11 rebounds and five assists.

Howard held a decisive advantage on the boards, outrebounding Coppin 49-38, but could not overcome 10 second half turnovers, 29 percent shooting (10 of 34) from the floor and too many missed free throws.

“It is really a tough loss,” Nickelberry said. “We are probably below Coppin State now. I told the players before the game that we were playing a desperate team, so we would have to 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 next two teams.”

Howard will face University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Prince Anne, Md. on Feb. 25, then Delaware State in their regular season finale March 2 at Burr Gymnasium in Washington, D.C

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