Both N.C. Central University basketball teams hosted the Norfolk State Spartans for their first conference home games on Monday, Jan. 8 in McDougald-McLendon Arena. The building was packed on both levels with NCCU students, faculty and alumni coming out in droves to support the maroon and gray.
The Lady Eagles began the evening doubleheader coming off a big road win against Delaware State University but spent the vast majority of the game struggling to maintain rebounds. Their missteps allowed Norfolk State to score 26 points off of fast break and second-chance opportunities.
Interior toughness was another major problem for the Lady Eagles as their Spartan counterparts also outscored them in the paint 48-16.
Nevertheless, NCCU was able to showcase their 3-point shot-making ability throughout the game. Freshman and sophomore guards Kieche White and Jada Blow gave the team a momentary spark to coming off the bench by draining big threes.
Despite keeping the game close in the first half, NCCU lost control of the game after halftime, losing with a final score of 75-60.
“It was a tough loss,” stated women’s basketball head coach Trisha Stafford-Odom, whose first season with the Lady Eagles currently has the team standing at a MEAC record of 1-1 (3-12 overall). “We will bounce back and shall be fine.”
The women’s team’s loss didn’t hold the men’s team back as they jumped off to an early score of 21-8. Multiple penalties by the Eagles allowed the Norfolk State Spartans to battle back.
By utilizing their tough defense, the Eagles were able to showcase many of their offensive weapons when it was time to shine.
Redshirt junior center Raasean Davis seemed unguardable, scoring a career high of 23 points and shooting an impressive 80 percent from the field while senior forward Pablo Rivas returned to action after recovering from a concussion to boost the team by scoring 14 points off the bench.
Norfolk State took over the lead in the second half, but the game became a thriller as NCCU rebounded from a 10-point deficit to tie the game with 2 minutes left on the clock.
From there, the Eagles fought through six lead changes and held on to win the game with a final score of 64-63.
Despite the win, men’s basketball head coach Levelle Moton was more focused on improving his team’s mistakes then impressive scoring stats.
“This program wasn’t built on finesse [but] on the grind,” Moton said when asked about that night’s performance. “We have to be better, as a team and coaching staff. There’s gonna be a bullseye on our back already.”
NCCU’s men’s basketball team improved their record to stand 2-0 in MEAC play (8-8 overall).
Both NCCU teams will continue their conference schedule play against Coppin State University on Saturday, January 13 at the McDougald-McLendon Arena.