Game #9-073: Coppin State vs. Florida Atlantic OwlsNovember 17, 2012 4:30 pm
My second game of the day would have me seeing the Florida Atlantic Owls face off against the Coppin State Eagles. I knew that this game would be sparsely attended seeing that it was part of the Maui Invitational Mainland Regional hosted by Elon. The Elon Alumni Gym is not that big to begin with, and after the Elon game ended a majority of the fans headed for the exits.
I, on the other hand made my way for a bathroom break and the concessions. I was also able to get a picture of the surfboard that every team posed with at center court before the start of each game.
When I made it back to my seat, what I thought before the game was becoming true. Florida Atlantic did bring some supporters, but Coppin State had around 10 people behind their bench. Right before tip-off I did an unofficial head count of fans in the stands and there was a whopping 127.
Despite the small crowd, there was still a basketball game to be played for two teams seeking their first wins on the season. My only preview of the two teams was the game notes I had printed out beforehand. It took me a while to realize that Mike Jarvis was the coach for the Owls, so there was at least one familiar face I knew.
From the start the first thing I noticed was that you could hear everything. The squeak of the sneakers, the benches yelling out instructions, players communicating with each other, even people having conversations in the stands. There was no swearing though, as I wondered if the coaches intentionally kept it PG-rated because there were still little kids in the stands.
If there were more CSU fans in the stands, there would not have been much for them to cheer for to break the silence. The Eagles were very sloppy and turned the ball over on what seemed like every other possession. When they were not turning it over, they were making poor decisions on isolation plays and either getting their shots blocked or missing badly. FAU was not playing much better, but CSU was making it easy for them as the Owls started off on an 18-2 run.
Coppin State finally started to show some signs of life by scoring the next six points, but the errors kept on coming. A Greg Gantt three had the Owls up 28-8 with around four minutes to go in the half.
"Run SOMETHING?!?! All it is is individual players!" said CSU head coach Fang Mitchell to his players during a timeout. The whole gym could hear his frustration with the team not playing as a unit. To the Eagles credit, they came out hard on defense in the ensuing possessions, rotating properly and getting in the face of the FAU guards.
All of that hard work did not pay off though, as Jackson Trapp would hit a three late in the shot clock with a defender in his face. That seemed to demoralize CSU even further as they continued to rush errant threes and have no ball movement on the other side of the court.
The final damage of the first half was a 33-8 advantage for Florida Atlantic. CSU had 12 offensive boards which gave them plenty of second chances to miss since they were 3-for-22 from the field. I almost thought about leaving at halftime, but that would be a disservice to both teams. Others in the stands did not feel the same way. I counted out the crowd at the beginning of the second half and we were now down to 74 spectators.
Coppin State did show some spark as they scored the first six points of the second half. The Eagles were playing a lot better and playing team basketball. There were fewer turnovers and the defensive pressure was still there. When the Eagles cut the lead to 13, Mitchell turned to his coaches and said "Oh my gosh, I wish they played like this in the first half."
The Owls on their part were still making it very difficult for CSU to come back. Trapp was still hitting threes while 5-foot-10 Stefan Moody was impressing what few fans were left with his athletic ability as he threw down a dunk after the play had been whistled dead. An Elon student left over from the previous game jumped up and yelled "I didn't know YOU could do that, Wow!"
The threes that were not falling for the Eagles in the first half were now finding the bottom of the net in the second. Patrick Cole was able to sink one and another from Andre Armstrong had the lead down to eight, but there was less than two minutes to go in the game. Armstrong tried to draw a charge, but the refs saw it as a block. As Armstrong complained to the ref, Mitchell told his player "39 minutes in, you think we're gonna get anything NOW?!" which was easily line of the night.
The Eagles would not quit though as they forced two consecutive turnovers on inbounds passes and converted to make it 57-54 with 50 seconds to go. Another steal from Armstrong and lay-up from Michael Murray had it down to one. At this point, the 20 or so neutral fans were on the side of Eagles, me included.
After two made free throws from Moody with 20 seconds to go, Armstrong drilled another three to tie the game to the jubilation of the Eagles bench. Moody took the inbounds and raced up the floor as the Eagles' coaches screamed "No Foul! No Foul!" But Zachary Burnham did just that about 30 feet from the basket.