Depth has improved, but Lady Eagles still on losing end

Nov. 05, 2013 @ 10:17 PM

Noticeably different about this edition of the N.C. Central Lady Eagles — their new uniforms notwithstanding — was the movement on their bench during a 56-47 exhibition loss to Livingstone on Tuesday.

NCCU coach Vanessa Taylor dipped often into her reserves, a luxury she didn’t have a season ago.

It was a nice option, she said.

“Without a doubt, definitely it is,” Taylor said.

Taylor sent 10 players to the floor during the course of the game. Another Eagle was dressed to play, and there were three more on the bench in street clothes.

Last season, Taylor had eight bodies to work with — period — and one of them was a walk-on.

Very familiar for NCCU against Livingstone, unfortunately, was the Eagles’ inability to make shots.

NCCU is a Division I team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but Taylor didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that Livingstone is a Division II school in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

“It’s the CIAA, and it’s very competitive in the CIAA,” Taylor said. “But it does tell us we’ve got to fight to get better.”

MEAC teams will come with more scoring in the post. NCCU newcomer Raquel Davis (17 points, 18 rebounds) appears ready to handle business in the paint, along with Tiffany Gary (7 points, 12 rebounds), the lone senior for the Eagles.

Two more NCCU post players are expected to be added to the rotation, including sophomore Tisha Dixon, who didn’t Tuesday night play due to injury.

The Eagles have to rebound better as a team, not relying on Davis and Gary to keep the backboards clean, Taylor said.

And NCCU certainly must make more shots. Some of that just is a matter of finding open Eagles for good looks at the rim, Taylor said.

“Offensively, the middle of the floor was open all night, but we didn’t do a good job of just taking advantage of that,” Taylor said.

The Eagles in the second half began getting the ball to Davis in the high post, and the 6-foot junior put something on the Blue Bears. She showed off a mean drop step in the paint, and she used it down the stretch to manufacture points in hurry.

With 13:15 left in the game, Davis, a transfer from Johnson C. Smith, made an aggressive move down low for a basket to get within eight points of Livingstone.

NCCU began to come alive. Gary on the next possession drew a foul on a strong rebound and made two free throws to get the Eagles two points closer to the Blue Bears.

Livingstone’s Diamond Tolliver (14 points) kept eroding what NCCU was trying to build. Davis would maneuver to the basket for a deuce, and Tolliver would get back those points and some with a 3-pointer.

Tolliver was 3 of 3 from behind he arc.

NCCU’s Jessica Freeman demonstrated plenty of range on her 3-point attempts, but she wasn’t knocking them down the way Taylor previously suggested she would when describing the transfer from UNC Wilmington as a sharpshooter.

Freeman was 3 of 21 from the field. Five of her 12 points were free throws.

The Eagles gave themselves a chance to win in the second half by shooting 34.5 percent, a vast improvement over their 15.6 percent effort in the first half.

Freeman was 1 of 13 on 3-point attempts, finally getting one to go just before the final buzzer groaned.

“She won’t have a whole lot of outings like that,” Taylor said.

NCCU’s youth caught up with the team, Taylor said. It was the first college game experience for some of Eagles’ players.