NCCU ready to hunt Bearcat tonight in 2013 season basketball debut
N.C. Central point guard Emanuel “Poobie” Chapman missed a free throw against Marquette with 4:58 left on the clock in December.
NCCU was trailing 52-50.
A layup by NCCU’s Jeremy Ingram had knotted the game less than two minutes earlier, but another Marquette bucket put the Eagles four points down.
Marquette won 75-66, but the point is that NCCU, a lower-level Division I team, had a stud program like Marquette on the ropes.
“To see us tied with Marquette with six minutes left,” NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said. “To me, that was the turning point in the year. That was an Elite Eight team, and we were going toe-to-toe the entire 40 minutes.”
NCCU redshirt senior Ebuka Anyaorah said he arrived at NCCU several seasons ago when the Eagles’ went into games against major schools like Marquette just looking to see what they could do, not at all figuring to win.
But the Eagles are in Ohio right now with their minds dead set on beating Cincinnati in the 2013 season opener tonight (8 p.m., ESPN3.com).
“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,” Anyaorah said. “You see it happening all the time, so it’s not like it’s impossible. Any team could fall any given night. We have a whole new mindset as far as when we play those big schools.”
Last season, NCCU did its thing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, going 15-1 during the regular season.
The Eagles were 22-9 overall, dropping games to Wyoming and Wichita State. The whole notion of moral losses generally is frowned upon, but there were teachable moments in those defeats — growth opportunities, Moton said.
The culture has changed at NCCU — folks actually expect the Eagles to win nowadays, Anyaorah said.
In particular, the Eagles expect success against high-end schools, Chapman said.
“This is the chance to show that basketball is basketball,” Chapman said. “Sometimes you lose, kind of, the sense of basketball when it’s a mid-major playing a high-major, or a D-II playing a D-I or whatever the case may be. But you as a player, you kind of understand that basketball is basketball. You can play in the back yard, you can play in Madison Square Garden, but, at the same time, it’s still basketball.”
Chapman is 10 assists away from becoming NCCU’s all-time leader in that category. The senior from Raleigh has 400 career assists, and there were games last season when 10 or more of his passes turned into buckets.
Cincinnati last season was 22-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big East.
The Bearcats are in the American Athletic Conference.