MEAC grudge match: NCCU puts it on the line at Norfolk State

Mar. 05, 2014 @ 07:39 PM

Tonight’s clash of the MEAC titans could answer some lingering questions.

N.C. Central is perched atop the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with just one league loss this season — to Florida A&M by three points in January.

Norfolk State (17-12, 11-4 MEAC) is in third place.

NCCU has locked up the top seed in next week’s MEAC Tournament. The Eagles clinched first-place when they beat Savannah State on Monday.

Yet today’s NCCU-Norfolk State game, the regular-season finale for both teams (8 p.m., 99.9 HD3 The Ticket), might settle the debate about which squad runs the MEAC.

Last season, Norfolk State and NCCU did not play each other during the regular season. Norfolk State didn’t lose a MEAC game in 2012-13, and NCCU, like this season, dropped just one league contest during the regular season.

The buzz around last year’s MEAC Tournament was the collision that was supposed to occur at Norfolk (Va.) Scope Arena between NCCU and Norfolk State, which both earned opening-round byes.

But the Eagles and the Spartans each played just one game in the tournament, both upset in the quarterfinals.

When this season rolled around, FAMU coach Clemon Johnson said there was chatter about how Norfolk State was this and that, but he wasn’t buying it.

NCCU is the squad that has it going on, Johnson said.

The Eagles have Jeremy Ingram averaging 20.3 points per game from the off-guard spot and are getting a league-leading 6.9 assists per game from point guard Emanuel Chapman.

“Probably the best tandem together in the league,” Bethune-Cookman coach Gravelle Craig said.

But Norfolk State has Pendarvis Williams, the reigning player of the year in the MEAC.

“He’s really good, man,” NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said.

Williams (6-6, 195) is long and can run the team from the point-guard spot, and the rest of the Spartans — including 7-footer Brandon Goode — aren’t bad, either, Moton said.

“Easily the most-talented team in the conference. It’s not even close,” Moton said. “This is the same team that went 16-0 last year. We’ve got our hands full.”

NCCU clinching its first Division I conference title was a huge deal, but the Eagles are still hungry, Ingram said.

“We are No. 1, but it’s not over,” Ingram said.

NOTES — NCCU reserve forward Ramon Eaton (6-8, 225) has been suspended from the team for a violation of team rules, according to the NCCU athletics department. The junior from Vallejo, Calif., transferred to NCCU from New Mexico Junior College. Eaton appeared in 13 games for the Eagles and was averaging 6.1 minutes, 1.3 points and 0.8 rebounds per game. … A story in Wednesday’s paper should have said NCCU went 15-15 during the 2010-11 season, Moton’s second campaign as NCCU’s head coach. NCCU has gotten progressively better since Moton took over. The Eagles were 7-22 during the 2009-10 season, Moton’s first year as NCCU’s head coach. NCCU was 17-15 in 2011-12 and 22-9 last season. The Eagles will look to add some more wins to their current 24-5 season during the MEAC Tournament and in either the National Invitation Tournament or the NCAA Tournament.