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Hampton holds off Coppin State for another tight win

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- The Hampton Pirates are getting to be old hands at playing tight games, and they are starting to get looser with each one.

Trailing by four points with 7:35 remaining, Hampton closed the game on a 15-5 run to knock off Coppin State 59-53 on Monday. It was the ninth consecutive game the Pirates have played that has been decided by seven points or fewer.

"The young kids are becoming a lot more poised in these situations," Hampton coach Ed Joyner said after his team improved to 6-3 in those close contests. "We've been in so many close games, now it doesn't bother them. They kind of relish the moment."

Freshman guard Deron Powers scored nine of his 14 points in the second half, including a driving layup with 1:03 remaining to help seal the victory for the Pirates (8-13, 5-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference).

"We've learned how to work in these types of games," Powers said. "We just have to keep pushing through and then try to pull it out."

In a back-and-forth affair in which neither team was able to gain much breathing room, the edge was with the battle-tested Pirates.

The inexperienced Eagles (5-19, 2-7) seemed to lose their cool late. Forward Patrick Cole was called for a technical foul with 6:09 remaining, and leading scorer Michael Murray picked up two cheap fouls in less than a minute, sending him to the bench with four fouls in a critical stretch of the contest.

"We're working on their emotion," Eagles coach Fang Mitchell said. "They lost their composure at the most inopportune time. You can't do those things and win basketball games."

It also didn't help that Coppin State shot 5-for-27 from the floor in the second half, including 0-for-11 from the 3-point arc.

Hampton took advantage as much as it could, going on a 12-4 run to open a 56-52 edge with 1:40 remaining. Coppin State had several chances to narrow the margin, but Murray dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds to squelch a key possession, and then the generously listed 5-foot-11 Powers weaved his way through the lane to seal the victory.

"Time after time, we had opportunities to score, and time after time, we had opportunities to stop them," Mitchell said. "Their baskets were easy layups, our baskets were tough."

Andre Armstrong scored nine of his 15 points in the second half for Coppin State, which has lost four straight after beating Hampton in overtime on Jan. 21.

In the first half, both teams utilized the 3-pointer, which was expected for Coppin State and somewhat surprising for Hampton.

The Eagles came into the game averaging a MEAC-high 7.7 3-pointers per game, and they battled back from an early deficit by hitting five of them in the first half. Taariq Cephas' second basket from behind the arc gave Coppin State its first lead at 22-19 with 8:27 remaining in the first half.

Hampton, which came in shooting just 26 percent from 3-point range, was 4-for-15 from long range before the break, but key makes from long distance allowed the Pirates to go into halftime trailing 30-29. The Pirates only took four more 3-pointers the rest of the way, missing them all, but they shot 52.2 percent from the floor overall in the second half.

"I wasn't worried about (3-pointers) -- I was happy that we made four of them," Joyner said. "What I did want to get was more dribble penetration, which helped us to get easy shots. We were able to chip away at the lead and get a win."

NOTES: Powers was selected the MEAC Rookie of the Week on Monday after averaging 11.0 points in two Pirates victories last week. It's the fourth such honor of the season for the freshman from Williamsburg, Va. ... Rebounding has been a season-long problem for Coppin State. The Eagles are last in the MEAC with a minus-9.6 rebound margin despite Murray's league-leading average of 8.9 per game. The Eagles were outrebounded by just one, 39-38. Murray finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds. ... Hampton wraps up a stretch of five straight conference road games with a matchup at Savannah State on Thursday. Coppin State concludes a three-game homestand Saturday with a game against Morgan State.

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