Comeback win puts N.C. Central atop the MEAC
N.C. Central snatched control of its postseason destiny with a razor-thin comeback win against Morgan State in front of a McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium crowd that gave the Bears an earful.
The 53-52 victory put the Eagles in first-place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. That potentially bodes well for seeding purposes in the MEAC Tournament, from which the winner gets the league’s lone berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Morgan State led by 13 points early in the second half.
Then NCCU started chopping wood.
“We came in here and got punched in the mouth early,” NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said. “We got punched in the mouth, again. Sometimes to win a championship you’ve got to prove that you can take a punch.”
NCCU this season has been beating MEAC teams by rather comfortable margins.
But Morgan State gave the Eagles something they could feel, and Moton said his guys needed that.
“This is huge in so many ways,” Moton said. “It was a character builder for us and just an opportunity for us to get to know ourselves a little more.”
After NCCU’s Jordan Parks missed a shot from point-blank range, Morgan State’s Donte Pretlow hit a little jumper to tie the game at 52.
Moton wanted to talk about it and used a timeout with 33.1 seconds left in the game.
Morgan State’s Shaquille Duncan fouled Karamo Jawara with .9 seconds left in the game. Jawara hit one of two free throws before Moton asked for a timeout.
After the break, Jawara intentionally missed his second free-throw attempt.
With not even a full tick on the clock, Morgan State set up a desperation heave-catch-and-shoot play that turned into a dud.
“Coach told us it boils down to heart, who wants it more,” Jawara said. “And we had to show that we wanted it more than them.”