So much for that anticipated match-up between the two top squads during the regular season in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Whatever it was that N.C. Central had all season that enabled the Eagles to go 15-1 in the MEAC wasn’t there in the postseason Wednesday night when it mattered most.
N.C. A&T beat NCCU 55-42 in the quarterfinals of the MEAC Tournament inside Scope Arena in Norfolk, Va.
NCCU ended the regular season in second place in the MEAC and didn’t have to play in the first round of the tournament, as did Norfolk State, which was the No. 1 seed.
Norfolk State was on the floor just before NCCU played and lost in overtime to Bethune-Cookman.
No team in the MEAC had beaten Norfolk State all season.
NCCU and Norfolk State didn’t meet during the regular season, and the two could have squared off in Saturday’s championship game of the tournament to remove all doubt about which was the supreme squad in the MEAC.
So much for that.
The Eagles didn’t shoot worth anything against the Aggies, and A&T’s Austin Witter didn’t cut the Eagles any slack, demonstrating why he was the MEAC’s defensive player of the year by blocking three shots to go with eight defensive rebounds.
“We waited until this game to probably play our worst basketball game of the year, which is unfortunate,” NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said. “It’s only one person to blame for that, and that’s myself.”
Moton said he failed to get his players to relax, and it showed from the foul line, where the Eagles went 12 of 26.
“We’re the No. 1-shooting free-throw team in the conference,” Moton said.
“Tonight’s contest was a grind,” A&T coach Cy Alexander said. “I thought our defensive effort kept North Carolina Central off rhythm.”
A&T is among the top 30 teams in the country when it comes to field-goal defense, Alexander said.
“I thought our defensive effort kept North Carolina Central off rhythm, and, consequently, you see that they shot 22 percent from the field, and I think that was the difference in the game,” Alexander said. “If you look at us, we only shot 36 percent. But 36 is better than 22.”
Stanton Kidd (13 points) and Jeremy Ingram (11 points) shouldered the scoring load for NCCU the way they did all season.
A&T got 13 points apiece from Adrian Powell and Lamont Middleton.
But defense was the thing for A&T, and the Aggies’ game plan was to keep switching up the look when NCCU had the ball and to blitz all ball screens to keep Kidd, Ingram and Eagles senior Ray Willis from getting comfortable out there.
“They’re a team that plays on rhythm,” Alexander said. “Our game plan was to disrupt them.”
NCCU strung together some tough plays in the second half, like Ingram’s gritty layup that tied the game about midway through the second half.
But the Aggies, after losing to NCCU twice during the regular season, was tougher and made the Eagles get out of character, Moton said.
“For a while, I just didn’t recognize my team,” Moton said.
NOTES: Moton, already among 20 coaches who are up for the Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year award, on Wednesday was announced as a finalist for the 2013 Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award. The namesake of the Hugh Durham Award, given annually to the nation's top mid-major coach, retired at the end of the 2004-05 season after becoming one of twelve coaches to have led two different programs to the NCAA Final Four (Florida State in 1972 and Georgia in 1983). Durham is the only coach among that group to have led both schools to their lone Final Four appearances. The Ben Jobe award is named after the renowned coach and is awarded annually to recognize the top minority coach in Division I men’s basketball. Both the Hugh Durham and Ben Jobe awards will be presented at the CollegeInsider.com banquet during the NCAA men’s basketball championship activities. … Before the game, Moton was presented with a trophy rewarding NCCU for finishing in second place during the regular season in the MEAC. … NCCU juniors Stanton Kidd and Jeremy Ingram before the game were recognized for earning spots on the all-conference first team.
At The Scope - Norfolk, VA
NORTH CAROLINA A&T 55, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL 42
NORTH CAROLINA A&T (17-16)
Lamont Middleton 3-11 7-13 13; Adrian Powell 4-8 5-7 13; Beckford 2-3
5-6 9; Louisme 2-6 2-2 7; Upchurch 2-3 3-4 7; Austin Witter
2-6 0-0 5; Underwood 0-4 1-2 1; Butler 0-0 0-0 0;
Siverand 0-0 0-0 0; Buck 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-41 23-34 55.
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (22-9)
Stanton Kidd 4-11 4-6 13; Jeremy Ingram 3-17 3-8 11; Ferguson 1-4 4-6
7; Willis 2-11 0-0 5; Houston 1-2 0-2 3; Copeland 1-1 1-4 3;
Williams 0-0 0-0 0; Galaya 0-3 0-0 0; Chapman 0-4 0-0
0; Jawara 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-53 12-26 42.
North Carolina A&T............ 20 35 - 55
North Carolina Central........ 15 27 - 42
3-point goals--North Carolina A&T 2-14 (WITTER,Austin 1-5; LOUISME,Jean 1-3;
UNDERWOOD,Jeremy 0-2; POWELL,Adrian 0-2; MIDDLETON,Lamont 0-2), North
Carolina Central 6-25 (INGRAM,Jeremy 2-11; HOUSTON,Alfonzo 1-2; WILLIS,Ray
1-5; KIDD,Stanton 1-2; FERGUSON,Drimir 1-2; GALAYA,Antonin 0-2;
CHAPMAN,Emanuel 0-1). Fouled out--North Carolina A&T-UNDERWOOD,Jeremy, North
Carolina Central-INGRAM,Jeremy. Rebounds--North Carolina A&T 34
(WITTER,Austin 8), North Carolina Central 44 (KIDD,Stanton 8).
Assists--North Carolina A&T 6 (LOUISME,Jean 1; POWELL,Adrian 1;
WITTER,Austin 1; UNDERWOOD,Jeremy 1; MIDDLETON,Lamont 1; SIVERAND,Waylan 1),
North Carolina Central 8 (INGRAM,Jeremy 2). Total fouls--North Carolina A&T
23, North Carolina Central 25. Technical fouls--North Carolina A&T-None,
North Carolina Central-None. A-7543