NCCU basks in historic afterglow, readies for ASU tonight
The Triangle’s traditional triumvirate of college basketball is unlikely to feature N.C. State this season.
N.C. State will be included with Duke and North Carolina, of course, but the Wolfpack just doesn’t figure as prominently as last season’s team that at the very least was built to do a little damage in the NCAA Tournament.
Last season, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried was drawing up schemes that included C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis. They took Gottfried to the Big Dance but are gone now, having either exhausted their eligibility, transferred or left school early.
Yet tradition-rich N.C. State is still N.C. State, so Gottfried is able to attract talented players — and N.C. Central beat them 82-72 in overtime Wednesday night.
The crowd at PNC Arena in Raleigh watched NCCU, a low-major Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team, outdo a squad from the marquee Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time in 14 tries.
NCCU will be on its home court tonight against Appalachian State (7 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com), coached by former UNC forward Jason Capel. It’s a contest that some preseason observers gave NCCU a chance to win, but now they might outright favor an Eagles team that owns a road win over N.C. State.
“They’re a good basketball team,” Gottfried said of NCCU. “They’re going to win a lot of games.”
NCCU’s signature win over N.C. State wasn’t as improbable as it appeared.
The Eagles did not embarrass themselves in a season-opening loss at Cincinnati and last season held their own against a Marquette team that made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
NCCU was tied with Marquette with about six minutes left before losing 75-66. Moton said that defeat marked a turning point for his team, which, by extension, made the win against N.C. State even more pivotal.
“We’re the underdog,” Moton said. “We’re always in the David-and-Goliath situation, and we’re always David. Fortunately, we just hit them with the stone this time.”
The Eagles get another shot at Wichita State (Dec. 22) and also are on the road against Maryland (Dec. 31).
NCCU redshirt senior Ebuka Anyaorah said, “We don’t want to just go play those teams anymore, we want to actually go beat those teams. That’s where we are now.”
That’s not chest thumping from Anyaorah. He actually made that statement on Oct. 29, well before NCCU beat N.C. State.
Moton said this edition of the Eagles is not his best team, and NCCU was able to beat the Wolfpack without the experienced presence of Anyaorah, who separated his shoulder Monday against Campbell and sat out Wednesday’s historic win.
Anyaorah is among several wounded Eagles, including newcomer Jordan Parks (6-7, 200), who is dealing with an ankle injury and wasn’t his normal, athletic self against N.C. State. Karamo Jawara (6-8, 220) scored 12 points Wednesday in his first action of the season after battling back from an injury.
So Moton, who uses an old-school weave concept in his offense, relied on what is rather archaic and an anomaly these days in college basketball — seniors who’ve played together four years.
Moton said NCCU point guard Emanuel Chapman and shooting guard Jeremy Ingram had no scholarship offers to play college basketball besides what he extended to them. They accepted the opportunity from Moton and returned the favor by remaining loyal to the Eagles and becoming better basketball players, and the Wolfpack had to deal with that.
Ingram scored 29 points, 11 in overtime. Chapman, NCCU’s all-time assist leader, scored 18.
“They just put us on their backs,” Moton said of his backcourt.
When NCCU played Oklahoma during the 2010-11 season, the Sooners — at the time coached by former Duke guard and current Blue Devils assistant coach Jeff Capel, the brother of the Appalachian State coach — sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer.
NCCU lost that one, but there was no déjà vu for Chapman and Ingram when they found themselves in that situation the other night at N.C. State.
“At that time, they were freshmen,” Moton said, recalling the Oklahoma game. “Now, they’re seniors.”
And that made all the difference, Moton said.