No panic for Eagles after first MEAC loss
N.C. Central losing for the first time this season in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference perhaps is one of those things that means more to fans than those closest to the situation.
NCCU coach LeVelle Moton’s tone on Saturday was even-keeled after Savannah State came up with a 44-36 solution for the Eagles’ riddle that has puzzled other teams in the league.
Savannah State didn’t do anything in particular to become the first MEAC team this go around to figure out NCCU, Moton said.
“We just couldn’t make a shot,” Moton said. “I mean, Jay Copeland missed five layups. Ray (Willis) was 0 for 6 in the first half -- clean, pretty looks. We just couldn’t make a shot. It happens that way sometimes.”
NCCU (17-8, 10-1 MEAC) stays on the road with a visit to S.C. State tonight (7:30 p.m., nccueaglepride.com).
While the Eagles’ winning streak came to an end after 11 straight victories, they remain in second place in the MEAC, with Savannah State (15-10, 9-2) right behind them.
Norfolk State (16-10, 11-0) is the only MEAC team that hasn’t lost in the league.
NCCU won’t play Norfolk State during the regular season but could have to deal with the Spartans in the MEAC tournament.
On Saturday, Jeremy Ingram (15 points) was the only Eagle in double figures, while the Tigers got a team-high 12 points off the bench from Devon Williams.
Savannah State’s starting lineup produced just 15 points, yet the problem for NCCU was that the Eagles weren’t hitting on much, either.
“They made the significant plays down the stretch, and we didn’t,” Moton said. “We weren’t tough enough. It’s that simple, and that’s on me. I have to make sure these guys are tougher.
“We’re still fighting for respect in this league.”
NCCU wasn’t strong with the ball, either. The Eagles turned it over 19 times -- way too careless, Moton said.
“We’ve just got to value the basketball,” Moton said.
For the second straight game, NCCU had three starters in early foul trouble, including junior Stanton Kidd, who picked up his second foul with 12:41 left in the first half.
“We’re not getting the same whistles every game, and we can’t control what the referees do,” Moton said. “They’re here to call the game. They’re human. They make mistakes, but we have to learn to play through that instead of getting frustrated.
“I just have to do a better job of keeping them in the game, especially Stanton Kidd. I think he got two early ones and it kind of just took him out.”
Kidd picked up one more foul the rest the night, finishing with five points after entering the game averaging 14.7.
That said, it didn’t appear that Moton, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, would lose any sleep over the loss.
“We’re going to chew on it,” Moton said. “We’re going to own this loss. Certainly, it wasn’t our best effort. It certainly wasn’t our best effort as a coaching staff, and this game starts with me. I’ve just got to have these guys ready, and that’s the challenge.”
Savannah State’s fans were loud and energized, and NCCU has to be able to handle that sort of hostility, Moton said.
“South Carolina State is going to do the same thing, and then we’ve got another big challenge with A&T,” Moton said.
N.C. A&T, NCCU’s main nemesis, comes to Durham on Saturday to renew the rivalry.
“It’s going to be a dogfight, man,” Moton said.