N.C. Central University Men’s Basketball’s (25-9) impressive season came to a disappointing end after the Eagles fell to the University of California at Davis Aggies on March 15.
After clinching the regular season, the Eagles won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament in Norfolk, Va., beating Norfolk State 67-59.
Winning the tournament earned the Eagles a spot in the NCAA tournament. NCCU faced off with the Aggies for a battle of 16 seeds but came up short 67-63.
NCCU had multiple players with double figures in the game.
Senior guard Patrick Cole had 13 points and is now tied for second-most points in a single season with 636 points.
Kyle Benton was able to finish the game with 13 points and a joint game-high of 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double this year.
The Eagles were led by senior guard Dajuan Graf’s 15 points.
“We had some good looks at the rim,” Graf said. “We just couldn’t knock them down.”
Not knocking down the big shots was a key part of the game’s storyline, especially from three-point land, finishing 5-26.
“We just didn’t make them,” Head Coach LeVelle Moton said. “We weren’t even close on some. We had guys who usually make them who weren’t knocking down shots.”
The Eagles led UC Davis by 34-31 in the first half, but the team wasn’t able to put the Aggies away and missed opportunities to take the lead late in the second half.
“We were down one. I shot a three,” Graf said during a press conference following the loss. “Coach was telling me to drive the ball.
I should have listened to Coach and continued driving the ball and finish[ed] at the rim.”
Though it stings leaving March Madness so soon, Moton is holding on to the team’s ongoing success in the MEAC.
The team has won the conference tournament twice in the past three seasons.
“In all honesty, this team shocked me,” Moton said after their buy-in loss. “They are champions, and they made a lot people proud and would have made our late chancellor Dr. Debra Saunders-White proud.”
The Eagles’ 25-9 overall record for the season marks the second-most wins with Moton as head coach.
This year’s team had the third-most wins in the program’s history.