This time, Eagles were ready for Bethune-Cookman
N.C. Central’s win over Bethune-Cookman on Monday night was good therapy that helped alleviate a bad memory since the 2012 MEAC tournament quarterfinals.
That’s when NCCU missed out on its first shot at earning a playoff berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats beat the Eagles 60-59 in the quarterfinals after a controversial charging call on NCCU senior Dominique Sutton, who appeared to have dunked for a bucket that would have put the Eagles up by three points with less than 20 seconds left in the game.
That set up Garrius Holloman’s game-winning jumper for Bethune-Cookman with 5.7 seconds on the clock, and NCCU couldn’t get off a shot in time.
On Monday in Daytona Beach, Fla., NCCU got a little payback with a 75-66 win over Bethune-Cookman to remain unbeaten in the MEAC.
There’s good and bad with that, NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said.
“Now it’s the temptation and the spirit of everyone telling you how good you are and what you’ve accomplished, and you haven’t accomplished anything,” said Moton, whose team is the only MEAC member with a winning overall record.
NCCU (10-7, 3-0 MEAC) has won four in a row, but the Eagles had better stay humble and remember what got them to this point, Moton said.
“Keep your head down; keep chopping wood,” Moton said. “Don’t listen to the streets, because the streets will quickly turn on you.”
NCCU junior forward Stanton Kidd (23 points) had it going early against Bethune-Cookman. The scouting report let the Eagles know that the Wildcats would switch on screens, leaving smaller guards on Kidd (6-7, 215) and giving NCCU point guard Emanuel Chapman (eight assists) a good reason to feed the ball to him in the post.
The Eagles’ fast start frustrated Bethune-Cookman coach Gravelle Craig into burning some timeouts to get the Wildcats in gear.
Bethune-Cookman battled back and took a 32-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We were stagnant in the first half because Jeremy (Ingram) had two fouls, and I had to sit him down,” Moton said.
NCCU regrouped and scored the first seven points of the second half and found a way to win, getting 26 points from senior Ray Willis.
While Ingram (10 points) was in foul trouble, NCCU junior Alfonzo Houston came on and posted 10 points.
The second half wasn’t about Xs and Os but instead a matter of who wanted it more, Moton said.
“We thought they threw the kitchen sink at us, and we were prepared to handle whatever they were going to throw at us,” Moton said. “We just made some critical plays down the stretch.
“It’s just a matter of toughness, and we were tough. We grabbed some rebounds. We kept our composure, and Ray — bless his heart — he turned the corner on some ball screens and was able to finish. Then he stepped up to the line in a hostile environment and made 13 of 13 free throws.”
Bethune-Cookman’s Adrien Coleman (18 points) was a load for the Eagles to deal with.
“He’s strong and physical, so he absorbs the initial point of contact, and he plays through that,” Moton said. “When he wants to put his head down and get to the rim, there are not many people in the nation that can prevent him from doing so. We just wanted to make things difficult for him.”