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20-loss team playing better than its record

Senior guard Tywain McKee may be Coppin State’s biggest threat. He’s averaging 16.6 points and scored 33 in the MEAC tournament title game.

Associated Press

Senior guard Tywain McKee may be Coppin State’s biggest threat. He’s averaging 16.6 points and scored 33 in the MEAC tournament title game.

DAYTON, Ohio — Fifty-eight teams in the NCAA Tournament field of 65 have won at least 20 games. Only one has lost that many.

At least Coppin State is unique. The Eagles will be the first team to start the NCAA Tournament with 20 losses when they face Mount St. Mary's in the opening-round game tonight.

"We're definitely not looking at their record to see how good they are," Mount St. Mary's coach Milan Brown said Monday. "They're going to be a tough test."

At one point, Coppin State had lost 17 of 18 and was 4-19. But the Eagles finished with a rush, winning 12 of their final 13, including the Mid-Eastern Conference tournament championship, and earning an automatic NCAA bid.

Coppin State, from Baltimore, won the conference championship by beating Morgan State 62-60. Mount St. Mary's (18-14), from Emmitsburg, Md., won the Northeast Conference tournament, beating Sacred Heart 68-55.

The Mountaineers are making their third NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 1999. Coppin State is making its fourth appearance and first since 1997.

Mount St. Mary's is 3-0 against Coppin State, and the teams haven't met since 1984. The winner tonight faces top seed and No.  1-ranked North Carolina in the East Region in Raleigh, N.C.

Brown is especially worried about Coppin State's senior point guard Tywain McKee, who is averaging 16.6 points and tied a season high with 33, including a floater in the lane with two seconds left, against Morgan State.

"That's always scary in a one-game situation that a player can have a night where he can just beat you by himself," Brown said. "We're going to try to make sure we give him a few different looks, hopefully, and just make him take a lot of potentially tough shots."

Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell said the Eagles had chemistry problems earlier in the season but turned things around when the seniors took a greater leadership role and the younger players got game experience.

"We had to mix that together, and it took some time," he said.

Mitchell said his team will have to worry about the perimeter play of Mount St. Mary's guards Jeremy Goode and Chris Vann. Goode averages 14.3 points and 5.5 assists, and Vann averages 14.4 points.

20-loss team playing better than its record 03/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:42am]
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