The Coppin State Eagles men’s basketball team put up a tough fight against one of its roughest opponents so far on the season before falling 80-63 to the No. 22-ranked, undefeated Illinois University (10-0 overall) on Dec. 11 at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill.

The Eagles trailed by only two points with just 8:04 left in the game after erasing a double-digit lead at the top of the second half. Senior point guard Tony Gallo had sparked the comeback with a three-point basket that led to a 9-0 run. Coppin State went on an 11-3 run just minutes following a jumper by senior power forward Logan Wiens, which cut the lead to 59-57.

CSU had a chance to take the lead, but Gallo missed a three-pointer and Illinois capitalized off the missed shot with fast break points.

Illinois’ Brandon Paul then drilled a three-pointer for that pushed their lead to 64-57 with 6:01 to play. Paul’s shot jumpstarted a14-4 Illinois run that extended the lead to 75-61 with 2:19 to play in the game. The Eagles couldn’t overcome the lead.

Gallo finished with a team-high 21 points for the Eagles; Illinois star center Meyers Leonard led his team with 18 points and 11 rebounds, his second career double-double.

“We went zone to basically try and stay away from Meyers Leonard hurting us,” Coppin State head coach Fang Mitchell said. “He’s 7-1 and I have a midget squad. I have to try and do the best I can with what I have.”

CSU now has a 3-5 overall record, not bad considering they’ve played other top-ranked opponents such as No. 4 University of Connecticut, Oklahoma University and Purdue University.

“ did a tremendous job of getting the people they wanted to shoot the basketball,” Mitchell said. “If I had to choose anybody to shoot those balls from the outside, it was them.”

Coppin State will see more action on Dec. 19 in a non-conference contest against the UNC-Charlotte 49ers.

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor