Coppin State Defeats South Carolina State in MEAC Opener
By: Ethan Hennessy
South Carolina State and Coppin State met on the hardwood on Saturday afternoon in the MEAC opener for both teams. South Carolina State’s took the court for conference play in the first time under first year head coach Erik Martin.
South Carolina State was getting over double the shot attempts of Coppin State by the under 12 media timeout in the first half. That was in large part due to their fantastic offensive rebounding. The Bulldogs are an undersized team (with only two players on the roster above 6’6), but they focused on crashing the offensive glass. After the game Juan Dixon when speaking on giving up 21 offensive rebounds said “That’s our achilleas heel. Not being able to rebound team’s first shot miss. We don’t do a very good job…. we do endless rebounding drills and they just don’t respond well… Every team we compete against moving forward that is going to be their best offense execute their offense, take their shot and go to the offensive glass and get the rebound.”
The Bulldogs used a 13-2 run to take a 21-14 lead at the 7:57 mark. Coppin State’s Sam Sessoms who entered the day with one of the highest scoring averages in the country, 22.2 points per game, did not get on the board until the 3:35 mark when he scored a transition layup after Justin Steers stole the ball.
Late in the first half Rakeim Gary of South Carolina State and Justin Steers of Coppin State got tangled after Gary stole the ball and laid it up up. While Gary was on the ground Steers stepped over him. South Carolina State’s Latavian Lawrence took exception to that and shoved Steers. Double technicals were issued to Steers & Lawrence.
In a close game throughout the first half Sam Sessoms gave Coppin a three point 36-33 advantage going into the locker room when he took the ball coast to coast and made a layup.
There was a second altercation of the game around five minutes into the second half when Sam Sessoms slapped the arm of Justin Wilson after Wilson fouled him. Both got right up in each others faces and were jawing but neither did anything more and nobody was assessed any technical. In the second half it seemed like every shot South Carolina State was putting up from three was missing badly. The Bulldogs were shooting 2-17 from three at the under 12 media timeout.
Coppin coach Juan Dixon could be heard yelling at Nendah Tarke late in the second half for well over a minute Dixon said after the game he was trying to push his buttons and get him going. Coppin State got the lead up to 15 at one point but South Carolina State chipped away to get it down to seven with under five minutes.
The Eagles kept the Bulldogs at bay though for the rest of the way and secured a 85-73 win. Despite not scoring until over 16 minutes into the game Sam Sessoms scored 26 points which will increase his 22.2 points per game average which is currently fourth in the country. This felt like a quiet 26 too because he never had a point where he took over the game. Instead South Carolina State let him get out in transition a fair amount, left him wide open from three or he racked up free throws.
Next for South Carolina State they will face the other Baltimore MEAC team Morgan State at Hill Fieldhouse on Monday night. Coppin State welcomes North Carolina Central to the Physical Education Complex also on Monday.