ALL INGRAM, ALL NIGHT
That egg the N.C. Central Eagles laid last year?
Well, that was last year, both NCCU coach LeVelle Moton and his players have said.
They removed all doubt Wednesday night.
No. 1 NCCU absolutely hammered No. 8 Howard 92-46 in Norfolk Scope Arena during the quarterfinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament.
Next up for NCCU is a Friday semifinal matchup against the winner of today’s game between No. 5 Savannah State and No. 4 Norfolk State.
The Eagles, the regular-season MEAC champs, earned a first-round bye and appeared fresher for it.
NCCU certainly looked like the tournament’s top seed, and Eagles senior Jeremy Ingram was the spitting image of the MEAC’s player of the year.
Before the game, Ingram was at midcourt picking up the hardware that comes along with being selected as the best player in the league, and then he went back on the floor and scored a game-high 30 points.
NCCU coach LeVelle Moton gave Howard a break and took Ingram out of the game early in the second half. Ingram scored all of his points in 26 minutes. He was very efficient, making 9 of 12 shots from the field. Ingram shot six 3s and made five of them.
Last year, NCCU was the No. 2 seed in the MEAC Tournament, had a first-round bye and lost to N.C. A&T in the quarterfinals.
That wasn’t happening this time.
The Eagles “still have pain lingering from last year,” Moton said. “We’re not going to shy away from that and come up here and be politically correct and say, ‘Naw, it didn’t bother us.’ It’s like breaking up. It’s like you’re ex-girlfriend leaving you for another guy. You never get over that. You move on, but you don’t get over that.”
In the first half, NCCU actually missed more shots than Howard made. Ingram alone knocked down more first-half shots than Howard did and nearly outscored the Bison with 21 points.
There are a whole lot of ways to slice it, but the bottom line is NCCU shot a blistering 71.4 during the first 20 minutes of the game and led 47-23 at halftime.
“They ran us out of our matchup zone early,” Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry said. “We went man-to-man, and their inside guys started taking over.”
Howard (8-25) played most of the MEAC’s top teams twice, making adjustments the second time around for better outcomes, Nickelberry said.
But it’s just incredibly difficult to come up with a game plan for NCCU, Nickelberry said.
“We played some ACC teams, some Big East teams this year, and (NCCU), by far, was the best team we’ve played this year,” Nickelberry said. “They do what they do. They do it very, very well.”
NCCU (26-5) played with intensity but was not uptight, allowing Howard to make just 23.9 percent of its shots.
The Eagles were focused, like when Ingram put a 3-pointer in the basket while Howard’s Damon Collins was knocking him to the ground. Ingram shot through the contact, and then he went to the free-throw line and completed a four-point play.
Ingram did lose focus that time he began putting on his shooting shirt when he actually was getting ready to check into the game.
That might have been the only hope Howard had for stopping Ingram’s good shooting.
Moton, the MEAC’s coach of the year, is one of those guys who hollers and fusses even when his team is up big. He said his mother once told him that NCCU lost to Michigan because he was sitting down during the game and not up motivating his team.
“No more sitting down for me,” Moton said. “I’m just going to be up and be energized, and I just think they feed off of that.”
But the Howard game was so lopsided that even Moton eventually took a seat, and he let all of his guys get in the game.
This one wasn’t even close.
|NC CENTRAL 92, HOWARD 46|
Percentages: FG .239, FT .611.
3-Point Goals: 2-13, .154 (Okoroh 1-1, Daniel 1-7, Mangham 0-1, Stone 0-1, Miller 0-1, Hill 0-1, Collins 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 5.
Blocked Shots: 1 (Ellison).
Turnovers: 16 (Stone 4, Daniel 3, Okoroh 2, Miller 2, Hill, Boyd, Norsworthy, Collins, Ellison).
Steals: 7 (Miller 2, Daniel 2, Norsworthy, Boyd, Collins).
Technical Fouls: Bench.
Percentages: FG .612, FT .710.
3-Point Goals: 10-20, .500 (Ingram 5-6, Groves 2-5, Moody 1-1, Galaya 1-3, Chapman 1-3, Parks 0-1, Houston 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 4 (Anyaorah, Houston, Galaya, Ingram).
Turnovers: 11 (Houston 3, Anyaorah 3, Parks, Jawara, Holmes, Groves, Ingram).
Steals: 5 (Ingram 2, Moody, Groves, Copeland).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Frankie Bordeaux, Hassiba Braggs, Michael Drummond.