Cole scores 29 as Coppin State edges Hampton in OT

The SportsXchange

HAMPTON, Va. -- Coppin State blew a 12-point, second-half lead, but Patrick Cole's two free throws with 1.2 seconds left in overtime gave the Eagles a 67-65 win over Hampton on Monday at the Convocation Center.

Cole, a freshman who came into the game averaging 10.5 points per game, scored a game-high 29 points for Coppin State (5-15, 2-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference).

After Jasper Williams missed a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left, the Eagles set up a last shot. The Pirates' Emmanuel Okoroba was called for the foul on Cole's fadeaway attempt, leading to the winning free throws.

"We were looking to isolate (Cole), and that's why were able to flatten it out and had the opportunity to go one-on-one with that," Eagles coach Ron Mitchell said.

It was a strategy the Eagles used with Cole throughout the game.

Ramon Mercado, who missed a desperation buzzer-beater, scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Pirates (5-12, 2-2).

"He was able to do a few good things for us," Hampton coach Ed Joyner Jr. said of Mercado. "I'm happy for him. Hopefully he can continue to do it."

Du'Vaughn Maxwell, the reigning MEAC defensive player of the week, added 15 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots, while Okoroba had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The rebound totals for Maxwell and Okoroba were career highs, as was the 11 assists from the current MEAC rookie of the week, Hampton's Deron Powers.

"It's the second one in a row like that," said Joyner, also referring to the Pirates' 80-78 loss to Morgan State on Saturday. "Again, we did enough to win a ballgame, but we didn't make the plays at the end."

The Eagles led by seven at halftime, then extended that lead to as many as 12 points in the second half.

The Pirates were able to cut the advantage to 53-50 with 5:53 remaining after Mercado made four consecutive free throws.

The Eagles got an Andre Armstrong layup to go up by five, and they were poised to extend their lead.

However, seldom-used senior guard Aaron Austin's hustle play caused a turnover on an Eagles breakaway, giving the Pirates a five-point swing. Maxwell's three-point play put Hampton within 55-53 with just under four minutes left.

Austin, playing out of position as the shooting guard, then found Mercado, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Pirates their first lead at 56-55 with 3:11 remaining.

"He came in and did a great job," Joyner said of Austin. "He's been working hard in practice every day. We always tell every kid, 'You never know when your time will come.' His time came, and he stepped up and played well."

Cole made two free throws to put Coppin State ahead 57-56, and the Eagles extended the lead to 58-56 when Taariq Cephas made one of two free throws with 27 seconds left.

Two free throws from Maxwell tied the game at 58. Cephas missed a mid-range jumper as the buzzer sounded, forcing overtime.

In OT, Mercado buried a 3-pointer to give the Pirates a 61-58 lead, but a 3-pointer from Cole tied the game.

Maxwell's jumper put the Pirates back up 63-61 with 3:26 left in overtime. Armstrong's two free throws tied the score.

An Austin jumper put the Pirates up by two, but once again, the Eagles got to the line, with Cole tying the game on two free throws.

The Pirates were then hoping to set up a play for Okoroba inside, but the Eagles denied it, and Williams missed an open 3-pointer, setting the stage for the Eagles' game-winning points.

Early on, the Pirates looked to Okoroba, as he scored their first five points, but the Eagles held a 6-5 lead through the first four minutes, getting early baskets from Zachary Burnham, Armstrong and Darryln Johnson.

The Eagles got in early foul trouble, though, with Burnham, Michael Murray and Charles Ieans each picking two fouls in the first seven minutes. Armstrong and Johnson would pick up their second fouls before halftime.

Mercado came off the bench and made two 3-pointers and two free throws to help the Pirates take a 13-9 lead with 12:39 remaining in the half.

The two teams combined to make four 3-pointers in the half, with the last of those by Cephas giving the Eagles, who made five of their first eight 3-pointers in the half, a 27-22 lead.

The Eagles extended their advantage to 37-30 at the half, led by Cole's 14 points and Armstrong's 12.

Okoroba was a strong presence down low for the Pirates, making his first five field goals and scoring 12 points in the first half.

The Eagles came out cold to start the second half, missing their first nine shots, allowing the Pirates to cut the lead to three.

After a media timeout, however, the Eagles took their biggest lead to that point, going on a 12-3 run and taking a 49-37 advantage with 11:47 left.

The Pirates responded with a 7-2 run of their own to cut the Eagles' lead to 51-44, getting a key contribution from Austin, who scored just his second basket of the season and added an assist.

Joyner said he's getting the needed consistency from his players, but they must do more to close out games.

"We just need to continue to work, try to keep their confidence up," Joyner said. "In both (of the past two games) we had opportunities to win it, so it's not like you're trying to find 10 points. You're trying to find two points, a stop, a rebound. We've got to find them."

Mitchell said the Eagles could build momentum from the victory.

"It's a learning process where they understand that we lost the lead because of a lack of aggressiveness, and we got the lead back and won it because of us being aggressive," Mitchell said. "If I ask them that question tomorrow on which way they need to be, I'm pretty sure they'll come up with the right answer."

NOTES: Joyner confirmed that 6-foot-10 junior center David Bruce has been declared academically ineligible and will miss the remainder of the season. Bruce was the team's leading rebounder from last season. ... Hampton will play its next five games on the road, and it won't return home until a Feb. 11 matchup with Delaware State. The last time the Pirates were on the road for an extended period, they started the season with six straight losses. ... Coppin State came into play Monday having lost five of its previous six games.
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