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MEAC Notebook

February 10, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

Coppin State and South Carolina State have been the pride of the conference. Despite tough schedules, and even tougher losses to the likes of Florida State, South Carolina, Cincinnati, Missouri, Michigan State and Xavier, the two teams have built a strong lead in conference play. This is based largely on the fact that these two teams played a higher level of competition in their non-conference games.

In the beginning, it was Florida A&M that I put my money on, and they continue to fight alongside many of the top teams who are within two games of the conference’s best record. To date, I have predicted the top seven in this conference, though not in their actual order, with only one mistake, and I have selected the 8th. 10th and 11th place schools exactly on the mark. Do I know bad, or do I know bad? Well, now the conference is shaping out to be a pretty good battle, and the top seven could change every weekend.

Pre-season MVP Terrance Woods continues to lead the conference in scoring, and Thurman Zimmerman of South Carolina State and Devin Green of Hampton are good choices for second and third in that voting. Brian Mason has been the surprise of the year, adding bulk underneath for South Carolina State as a guard, not to mention a freshman. Benjamin Betts Jr. took this team to the conference title last season, and his efforts to take them back might earn him Coach of the Year, but I’m not calling in my vote just yet.

South Carolina State Bulldogs (9-3 conference, 12-9 overall)

83-55 W Hampton
88-74 L Norfolk State

The Bulldogs suffered their first home loss of the season on Monday, and it was a costly loss as it dropped them into a first place tie with Coppin State. The Norfolk State Spartans held a 46-29 halftime lead, and the Bulldogs couldn’t overcome it in the second half. The bulldogs outrebounded the Spartans 38-26, but it was mostly due to all the misses that they were throwing up, after all, shooting 35 percent from the field will do that. Thurman Zimmerman was the rock again, tossing in 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The telling stat in this game was the number of offensive rebounds taken in by the Bulldogs, 24. Their shooting touch better come back as this team has a tough schedule coming up, with games against Morgan State and Coppin State.

Coppin State Eagles (9-3 conference, 11-12 overall)

66-62 W at Florida A&M
65-52 W at Bethune-Cookman

I thought that Coppin State had too tough a schedule to have anything left for conference play. I was dead wrong. Its three losses have come to teams with at least seven wins. Jimmy Boykin, Nick King, and Kelvin Green have been a monster frontcourt, and this has translated into success for a team that had many questions coming into the season. Chad Yates rounds out the frontcourt, and now you know the top four scorers for the squad as well. With three straight wins, the eagles are looking to get some momentum going for the conference tournament, where they might face Delaware State or Howard, their next two opponents.

Delaware State Hornets (7-4 conference, 8-11 overall)

60-42 L at South Carolina State
69-6 L Maryland Eastern Shore

This team had everything going for it, and then it lost to Maryland Eastern Shore. It was only a three point loss, but it was hard coming after a loss to the number one team in the league, a game where the Hornets could only muster up 42 points. Shooting was the big problem, and Delaware State must bounce back quickly as it faces Coppin State and Morgan State, two of the top five teams in the conference. In the game against Maryland-Eastern Shore, the Hornets couldn’t get it done in overtime. They flailed on their final possession, turning the ball over to solidify the Maryland-Eastern Shore victory. They have lost three of their last four games.

Florida A&M Rattlers (7-4 conference, 8-12 overall)

66-62 L Coppin State
83-67 W Morgan State

Florida A&M has to prove that it can beat the top teams in the conference, not just handle the bottom tier effectively. Late in January, the Rattlers winning streak, which had reached 5 games, was snapped when South Carolina State rocked the rattlers 86-62. With their recent loss to Coppin State, a 66-62 heartbreaker, the Rattlers have yet to prove that they can take the conference tournament title. The Coppin State game was especially hard because of a 17 point advantage that they Rattlers enjoyed early in the second half. One field goal in nine minutes of play will shoot you in the foot real fast, and that is exactly what the Rattlers did, even though rattlers don’t have feet. The good news, Terrance Woods seemed to have snapped out of his recent slump with 6 for 10 shooting from behind the arc against Morgan State.

Morgan State Bears (7-5 conference, 8-11 overall)

79-64 W at Bethune-Cookman
83-67 L at Florida A&M

The Bears had won two straight in conference play, and their website listed their game against Florida A&M as a game that would continue the Bears winning streak. Winning streak? Since when has two games constituted a credible winning streak? A streak implies some consistency, and the Bears have shown none of it. The only streak of note for this team is the six straight losses suffered in December, something the team has yet to get over. While this team can beat South Carolina State, it cannot beat Maryland-Eastern Shore. This type of inconsistency is not supposed to happen to a team with so many seniors, not to mention a team that shares the scoring so well. Well, to keep consistent with the promotional strategy implemented by the school, Morgan State’s upcoming games against Howard and Delaware State will test whether the school can keep its winning streak in tact, a streak which is currently at 0.

Hampton Pirates (7-5 conference, 9-14 overall)

83-55 L at South Carolina State
85-58 W at North Carolina A&T

When Morgan State beat Hampton at the buzzer, it killed a lot of momentum. After all, the Pirates had won two games in a row, one against the very competitive Coppin State team. Now, if it had been a well run play that left a good shooter open for a three, that might have been one thing, but a 35 foot heave at the buzzer is another. Those are the games that you just dread as a coach. You can’t really say anything other then that the lucky team won. Devin Green is making a name for himself as a viable candidate for Player of the Year. He is a solid rebounder as well as shooter, both from in front of and behind the arc.

Norfolk State Spartans (6-6 conference, 7-14 overall)

59-57 L at North Carolina A&T
88-74 W at South Carolina State

How does a team go from losing at North Carolina A&T to beating the number one team in the conference? Well, the Spartans are one of many teams in the MEAC conference that had a horrible December. Their inconsistency is shown in that they have only one two games in a row twice. Chakowby Hicks is a solid player, but his shooting is hurting the team. He is only shooting 40 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc. His fellow guards aren’t doing too much better, as Derrick Smith is 36 percent from the field, and Nicholas Byrd and Michael Bates are only shooting 32 percent.

Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (4-8 conference, 5-15 overall)

69-66 W at Delaware State
56-55 W at Howard

What’s this, a two game winning streak? In case you were wondering, it can be considered a winning streak if you are a Hawk fan. See, anything that helps your ego is okay, especially since this team has almost doubled their win total in the month of February. Tee Trotter has been a force to be reckoned with. He has earned Player of the Week status for the last two weeks in the MEAC conference, and he has led his team to a surprising 2-1 record in the month of February. Their only loss came by one point to Bethune-Cookman, a team that needed one buzzer beating three pointer in the first overtime, and a three pointer with two minutes left in the second to beat the Hawks. This late run by the Hawks is interesting because if they can get some momentum going, they might be able to knock off the good teams in the tourney. You got to love a tournament that lets every single team play in it.

Howard Bison (3-8 conference, 5-15 overall)

61-60 W at North Carolina A&T
56-55 L Maryland-Eastern Shore

The game between the Aggies and the Bison was for last place in the minds of the rest of the conference. Howard won, and got out of the cellar and into a tie with Bethune-Cookman, which had recently beaten Maryland-Eastern Shore. Who knew that last place would be so hotly contested. Not me, but when they got out, they made my pre-season prediction correct. Thank you Bison.

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (3-8 conference, 4-16 overall)

79-64 L Morgan State
65-52 L Coppin State

When their game against last place North Carolina A&T was postponed, it didn’t help them any. In fact, they got blown out by 30 points to the worst team in the conference. This team has absolutely no momentum going for them. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the excellence displayed by the Bethune-Cookman Sports Information Director, who has made information readily available on the school’s athletic website. Cheers to you Int. Sports Information Director Opio Mashariki.

North Carolina A&T Aggies (2-10 conference, 2-19 overall)

59-57 W Norfolk State
85-58 L Hampton

The Aggies got their first win on January 27th against Bethune-Cookman, and their second win on February 7th against Norfolk State. Their leading scorer is freshman guard Sean Booker, so at least their future is looking bright.


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