NCCU seeks revenge as FAMU comes to town
Florida A&M is not exactly tearing it up this season in the bottom half of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
The Rattlers, though, are the only team in the MEAC to have figured out a way to beat N.C. Central. Back on Jan. 11, FAMU came out on top in a close one with the Eagles, a 63-60 decision in Tallahassee, Fla.
Now the Rattlers get to hunt the Eagles in “The Jungle.” That’s what NCCU’s players call McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium, where the basketball team has won 20 home games in a row.
McDougald-McLendon holds 3,116 folks, and when they get to yelling and the Marching Sound Machine starts blaring those horns and whatnot, opposing teams have some chaos to deal with. Then there’s Jalen “DJ Double J” Jarmon, tucked in a corner of The Jungle, fueling those fans with a little mood music — it ain’t cool jazz, either — that he pushes through some really loud speakers.
But fans might be able to hear gym mice squeaking in The Jungle if the Eagles don’t make some noise on defense against FAMU tonight (7:30 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com).
FAMU guards Jamie Adams and Reggie Lewis combined are on pace to put up nearly 30 points or more on NCCU if the Eagles don’t account for them.
That’s what happened on Saturday, NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said. Bethune-Cookman’s Malik Evans had two points at halftime but got a shot or two to go down during the final 20 minutes and ended up with 14 points before fouling it.
NCCU certainly wasn’t in any trouble in the second half, even with that burst by Evans. But the overriding principle there is about what could happen if the Eagles take plays off, Moton said.
NCCU (17-5, 8-1 MEAC) is the hottest team in the MEAC bar none. The Eagles are an experienced bunch, and the prevailing thought might be that Moton’s guys have been around long enough to know how to pace themselves in order to have plenty left in the tank for the league tournament.
It’s a blasphemous thought, Moton said.
“That’s the ultimate no-no,” Moton said. “One thing I learned in my career as a player and as a coach is you’re not a light switch. You can’t turn yourself on and off. The great ones — and I mean the great ones, on one hand — are the only ones I’ve seen that are capable of doing that. I’m not coaching none of the great ones.”
NCCU seniors Jeremy Ingram and Emanuel Chapman are the leaders of the team, and Moton said he had to put them in check after the Bethune-Cookman game — again, a game the Eagles won.
“I really wasn’t pleased with our energy on the defensive end,” Moton said. “We just had too many breakdowns, and at this juncture in the season we’re not kids anymore. We’re not young. There’re no excuses. You know what’s required of you, and we’ve got to do it. That’s my job to hold them accountable every single day.”
Bethune-Cookman shot 40.5 percent from the field against the Eagles.
The standard for NCCU basketball is holding teams under 40 percent, Moton said.
FAMU (8-15, 4-6 MEAC) will enter The Jungle with the swagger afforded a ball club that’s already beaten the top team in the MEAC, Chapman explained.
“We’ve got to come in and match that fire and take it up a notch,” Chapman said.