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Coppin St. breezes past UMBC, 80-61

For various reasons often times beyond just basketball Fang Mitchell has to load his team's non-conference schedule with games Coppin State has no business winning but when they compete against other teams near their talent level they start to take off.

For various reasons often times beyond just basketball Fang Mitchell has to load his team’s non-conference schedule with games Coppin State has no business winning but when they compete against other teams near their talent level they start to take off.

Coppin State hit their first eight shots of their game in UMBC’s RAC Arena as they dominated the Retrievers for 40 minutes for an 80-61 victory, only their second of the season but they certainly looked like an above-.500 team more than a 2-8 team with the way they played a complete game.

“I really thought they played very well together,” said 27-year Head Coach Fang Mitchell. “I knew there were going to be some growing pains but we still got a long way to go to get where we need to be.”

One thing that you will never see on a Coppin State basketball team’s schedule is an easy non-conference slate. They travel everywhere, they play the absolute best of the best and there are financial reasons that the men’s basketball team loads their schedule up with all of those really tough, almost impossible to win games and it almost always gives them a sad-looking record but on Wednesday night against a much more favorable UMBC opponent, one that they could actually contend with when it comes to size, speed and athleticism, they showed that they are still one the most talented and one of the most well-coached teams in the area.

What else do you need to know about why Coppin State’s record is than that they played in the prestigious EA Sports Maui Invitational against the likes of Southern California and Texas, played locally against 2012 NCAA tournament team Loyola (MD), went to No. 1 Indiana and played against A-10 power St. Josephs and a Conference USA team on the rise in Marshall?

“If there was anything I was worrying about it was the team’s confidence being destroyed with the tough schedule but the last game they played (at Marshall) you’re playing against a Conference USA team and you’re leading in the final three minutes, it shows toughness and we’ve been building on that,” Mitchell said.

Now the team is in games where they are playing “apples to apples” with upcoming contests against Wagner and Towson coming up in the middle of their seven-game road trip before they head right back out to take on very tough opponents in the likes of Iowa, Arizona State and Akron.

Coppin State made 48.3-percent of their shots from the floor and out-rebounded UMBC 41-31, all while really disrupting the Retrievers offense by slowing down the tempo of the game and using their patience of offense to wear down a Retriever defense, wearing them down before they got the possession. That resulted in not only a poor defensive performance from the Retrievers as they dropped to 2-9 on the year, but it turns around on their offense and forced them to settle for far too many three-pointers and in the end they only made 35.2-percent of their shots, with nearly half of them coming from long-distance.

“We settle for three’s,” said UMBC’s acting head coach Aki Thomas. “A couple of them were decent shots but after a while we get comfortable in jacking up threes and it’s not who we are.”

UMBC plays or at least Thomas wants them to play inside out. With all-conference forward Chase Plummer and former St. Bonaventure center Brett Roseboro in the post UMBC has the tools to be a successful inside out team. It also helps that Roseboro has been on fire lately and recorded a double-double against the Eagles with 15 points and 10 rebounds but when a team shoots 6-for-25 from three-point range and only attempts 54 shots in a game there are far too many empty possession to be able to compete over 40 minutes.

“We play inside out and that’s what we’re good at,” Thomas said. “We have a pretty good group of inside guys who can soften up the defense and it we’re not looking in there and trying to work then we’re just taking contested three-point shots.”

And that led to just a downward spiral for the Retrievers. With Coppin State able to wear down their defense and hit shots it almost seemed like the Retrievers felt they had to shoot three’s to contend in the game but when those did not go down it sent UMBC right back on defense without anything to show for their possession.

“If we could get our confidence from the defensive end and keep that as a staple and then when things turn around and we finally start hitting shots we can jump back into being who we are but it seems like we only play well on the defensive end when the offensive end is clicking,” Thomas said. “That’s something that we have to change and it has to happen rather quickly.”

But patience and unselfish basketball was the name of Coppin’s game on Wednesday night. Four players scored in double figures for the Eagles, led by Michael Murray with 19 points and 13 rebounds and Sterling Smit, with 13 points and 12 rebounds to go with four assists. Patrick Coles and Charles Ieans scored 13 and 11 points, respectively while six other players got in the scorers book as well.

“The team is playing patient, waiting to get their shots and playing unselfish right now,” Smith said. “Points are being scored throughout the whole team so the chemistry is clicking and everybody is learning their roles.”

Ryan Cook led UMBC with 17 points and had the team’s best performance from the floor with 4-for-7 shooting and a 3-for-4 performance from three-point range.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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