BALTIMORE – In a world of instant satisfaction and emoticons, Coppin State’s difficult beginning to the season when it dropped 15 of its first 16 games, wasn’t well received. There were probably lots of red-faced emoticons accompanying text messages involving the CSU men’s basketball team during that time.
Never mind the fact the Eagles played the 11th toughest non-conference schedule in the nation, or that they were transitioning to a new coach or that 13 of their first 16 games of the season were on the road. Nope. Society wants results now and wins yesterday, which is unrealistic.
Anything good takes time to build and slowly Coppin State is beginning to evolve into a team nobody wants to play next month in Norfolk when the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament commences. After all, the Mondawmin Mall, which sits across the street from CSU’s Physical Education Complex took more than a day to construct.
Lately, there’s been plenty of smiley-faced emoticons following Coppin State performances especially at home. The Eagles (5-18 overall, 4-6 MEAC) will look for their fourth straight win at home when they host Savannah State (5-17, 1-7) Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in the PEC Arena. One of Grant’s first statements when he was introduced as head coach was he wanted to win at home.
One thing Coppin State hasn’t done is beat Savannah State. The Eagles are 0-3 against the Tigers. Last season, Savannah State cruised to a 75-53 victory over Coppin State in Baltimore. This will be Savannah State’s third consecutive trip to Baltimore.
Savannah State lost to Morgan State on Saturday, 67-57, despite 12 points from Brian Pearson and nine from Terel Hall. The Tigers, losers of three straight, haven’t won a road game this season. Four of their five conference road losses have been by double digits.
The positive in playing so many road games at the start of the season is being able to spend plenty of quality time at home late in the season when the games matter most. When the calendar hit February and the Eagles knew had six of their remaining games at home, the coaching staff probably texted each other a thumbs up emoticon.
“When we got into February we knew this was a crucial month for us and we needed to take advantage it,” Grant said. “We’re on the right track and moving the program forward. We’re also developing some pride here at home. Against South Carolina State, our crowd got into the game and that was great to see.”
The Eagles are giving their fans a reason to stand up and shout.
In their two wins last week against Morgan State and South Carolina State, senior Arnold Fripp led the way with a 19.5 point per game average and 10.5 rebounds. His third career double-double against S.C. State was a key component to the Eagles’ 77-74 win.
Junior guard Sterling Smith, who leads CSU in scoring with a 12.0 point per game average, delivered the biggest shot of the season against the Bulldogs, a go-ahead 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining. Smith along with senior guard Taariq Cephas led the Eagles with 18 points each against South Carolina State. Senior forward Dallas Gary finished with 13 points, the sixth straight game he has reached double figures in scoring.
Coppin State has won four of its last six games by averaging 81.2 points per game and 15.1 assists per outing. The Eagles have also made double-digit 3-pointers in five of those games. Coppin State has led or been tied at halftime in six straight games.
Also over its last six games, five Eagles are averaging double figures led by Smith’s 16.8 point per game average. Gary and Fripp are averaging 14 points. Cephas is chipping in 13.8 points per game over that time. Christian Kessee has generated 11.8 points per contest.
“I think we’re getting better as a team,” Grant said. “I felt that they believed that they were going to win even after South Carolina State made a run and took the lead late in the game. This was a good game and a good learning experience for us to be able to win a close game.”