BALTIMORE, Md. – The Coppin State University men’s basketball team will add some more frequent traveler miles to its ledger when it makes the three-hour bus trip down Interstate 95 to meet the University of Richmond at the Robbins Center Saturday night. Tip off for the non-conference contest is at 6 p.m.
The game will be joined in progress on Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic Plus.
The Eagles have traveled often this season thanks to a pair of trips across the continent in a four-week period. Coppin State will not play at home again until after the ball drops in Times Square. The game against Richmond begins a stretch of five straight road games to close out 2013.
Coppin State (4-4 overall) will look to extend its winning streak to three games while Richmond (7-3) will try to bounce back from an overtime loss to Wake Forest in its last outing. Coppin State and Richmond have met once and that was on Nov. 30, 2008 with the Spiders coming away with a 78-67 victory.
While the on-court history is basically non-existent, Richmond and Coppin State share a special bond because they have won NCAA tournament games as No. 15 seeds and eliminating highly regarded No. 2 seeds in the process. Richmond beat Syracuse in 1991 and Coppin State took out South Carolina in 1997. Those memories are forever cherished in the NCAA’s “One Shining Moment: 1987-2011” DVD.
The Eagles are flying high entering this matchup. Fresh off of a pair of victories over Delaware State and UMBC, Coppin State’s offense is rolling. In their last two games, the Eagles have recorded 34 assists and made 21 3-pointers. In its 91-71 win over cross-town foe UMBC, all five starters for Coppin State reached double figures in scoring led by senior forward Michael Murray’s 21 points. The reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player of the week, Murray has scored at least 20 points in consecutive games for Coppin State.
Junior guard Taariq Cephas had 18 points and eight assists. He has 18 assists in Coppin State’s last two games. Sophomore guard Sterling Smith and senior forward Arnold Fripp were efficient as each player took nine shots to finish with 17 and 15 points, respectively against UMBC. Junior forward Brandon St. Louis scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked a season-high five shots.
Murray leads the Eagles in scoring with a 15.3 point per game average despite missing the first four games of the season. Smith has scored in double figures in seven games this season and is second on the team with a 14.8 point per game average. Cephas leads the Eagles in assists with 39 and averages 11.8 points per contest. Fripp chips in 9.9 points per outing for Coppin State, which is 4-0 this season when it records 10 or more assists.
“We have a lot of scorers on our team,” Smith said. “We’re learning to play with each other and we’re making progress with each game we play. However, we know that the key for us in this game is playing defense and getting stops.”
The Eagles will definitely need their defense as the Spiders are a pretty formidable bunch especially at home in Virginia’s capital city along the James River. This is the opener of a three-game homestand for Richmond, which played five of its last six games on the road. The Spiders are 4-1 at home this season and have won 41 of their last 47 non-conference home games.
Richmond’s defense has been stingy this season, allowing 64.5 points per game, which ranks third in the Atlantic 10. The Spiders have held the opposition to 61 points or less in regulation in five straight games. The Spiders are second in the Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage (.392) and are fourth in the Atlantic 10 and 26th in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.274).
Senior guard Cedrick Lindsay leads the Spiders and is second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 18.2 points per game. He has scored in double figures in 20 of the Spiders’ last 24 games. Also averaging double figures for Richmond is junior guard Kendall Anthony (11.5 points per game) and sophomore forward Terry Allen (10.1 ppg.). Allen is also the Spiders’ leading rebounder (6.5).
Coppin State welcomes the opportunity to compete against a Richmond program that advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2011. The Eagles have already played Pac-12 schools California and Oregon along with Top 25 giants Michigan and Gonzaga this season. Smith believes the Eagles are in a better place heading into this matchup.
“The Michigan and Gonzaga games were humbling experiences for us,” Smith said. “You go into those games thinking you can compete and unfortunately we didn’t compete at all. Not saying that we can’t, but we didn’t in those two games. Those games were a wake-up call for us. Everybody is on the same page now. Right now, we’re playing as a team and we’re looking to keep getting better.”
Coppin State will meet 8-1 Southern Mississippi in the BVI Tropical Shootout Friday at 10 p.m. The other half the bracket in that tournament features Jacksonville State against Arkansas-Little Rock. Meanwhile, Richmond will host Ohio University on Sunday, Dec. 22.
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