With a win against Howard University Monday night, NCCU Men’s Basketball upped its winning streak to 12 games and improved to 21-6 on the season.
The Eagles lead the MEAC at 12-1. Overall, the team is 10-1 at home and 11-5 on the road.
Head Coach LeVelle Moton said the 66-59 win over Howard showed that players are starting to lock in for the post season.
“You can see the synergy starting to click. Basketball is a game where if synergy is not there, you can see it, but when it is there you can see things coming together,” Moton said during a post-game press conference Monday night.
Redshirt Senior Forward Kyle Benton was key in the win against Howard, providing defensive effort and nine rebounds. Benton said this season has been a noticeable improvement from last year.
“We were a little younger, last year,” he said. “But everyone knows the system, now.”
Benton said that the team’s recent success is thanks to the work players put forth in the preseason, facing tougher opponents than the MEAC has to offer.
“We have worked very hard to be here. The preseason actually got us ready. Playing big teams like Ohio State, LSU, and beating Mizzou let us see some size and speed with lots of skilled players,” said Benton
Another motivating factor Benton pointed to stems from the number of seniors on the team. Of the 14 players listed on the team’s official roster, seven of them are in their last year of eligibility.
That’s something that Moton hasn’t let his team forget, Benton said.
“He just reminded us that we are all seniors and this is our last go round,” Benton said. “He said we can be a team that drops the ball or be a team that could be legendary.”
The team’s priority now, said Benton, is staying focused on having a strong finish to the season.
“We’re trying not to let it get to our heads, staying away from social media and fans telling us how good we are and staying focused on the goal of winning the tournament,” Benton said.
Moton said during the press conference that he’s satisfied with the his players’ level of effort.
“The team is improving and starting buy into the defensive end of floor, which predicates into everything that we do,” he said. “I told them we have to set the standard for us. I concentrate on our principal of playing clean and maintaining our focus.”
The Eagles are three games away from the MEAC tournament. They’ll host two games at McDougald-McLendon Arena, taking on Bethune-Cookman University on Saturday and Savannah State University on Feb. 25. The team will wrap up conference play at North Carolina A&T University.
“We’re going all out to win the regular season and tournament to make it to the NCAA tournament,” Benton said. “We want to be there on the big stage.”