N.C. Central (20-5, 11-1 MEAC) at North Carolina A&T (8-19, 4-8 MEAC)
Date: February 22, 2014
Time: 6 p.m.
Facility: Corbett Sports Center
Series: A&T leads 75-68
Webstream: www.ncataggies.com; Play-by-Play: Spencer Gwynn; Color: Terry Cooper
PROBABLE STARTERS: G Lamont Middleton (6-3, 205, Sr., 17.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Jeremy Underwood (6-0, 190, Sr., 7.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.0 apg); G Denzel Keyes (6-4, 210, Fr., 1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.1 apg); F Bruce Beckford (6-7, 215, So., 10.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg); Steven Burrough (6-9, 245, Fr., 1.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg).
Aggies Overview: What face A&T on Saturday is daunting. The Aggies not only invite their fiercest rival to Corbett Sports Center on Saturday, but N.C. Central just so happens to be the best team in the conference. NCCU also happens to be the team that handed the Aggies their worst MEAC loss in school history on Jan. 22, 2014. The MEAC’s top team also comes to Greensboro at a time when the Aggies aren’t healthy. Starters Lamont Middleton, Bruce Beckford and Jeremy Underwood all have various injuries. In addition, reserves Jerome Simmons and Maurice Taylor are also nursing injuries. But the Aggies have received big contribution from players who previously have not played significant minutes. Wingman Denzel Keyes played a season-high 38 minutes at S.C. State and recorded seven points and four rebounds. Walk-on sophomore point guard Ahmad Abdullah hit a big 3-pointer in regulation to help the Aggies get to overtime against the Bulldogs.
N.C. Central Overview: The Eagles have established themselves as the best team in the MEAC. The Eagles have won 12 straight with double-figure victories in nine of those games. The Eagles looked poised to win their first conference championship since the 1950’s. They have a 124 RPI raking, which is higher than many of the teams in power conferences. NCCU is a senior-laden team led by senior 6-foot-3 guard Jeremy Ingram. Ingram is averaging 19.5 points, which ranks him second in the conference in scoring. Senior point guard Emanuel Chapman engineers the Eagles offense, leading the conference in assists at 6.8 per game. Senior Alfonzo Houston also provides leadership at 9.6 points per game and redshirt junior Jay Copeland leads the Eagles in rebounding at 6.4 per game. Head coach LeVelle Moton is in his fifth season at NCCU where he is 6-2 versus A&T.
Potential Star: It is redemption time for senior guard Lamont Middleton. He perhaps had one of the worse games of his career in Durham on Jan. 22 where he was 1-for-11 from the floor. In front of boisterous crowd at Corbett on Saturday, he will likely looking forward to his matchup against Ingram.
News & Notes:
• The Aggies have never defeated the Eagles in Corbett in three tries since the Eagles returned to the conference during the 2010-11 season.
• Point guard Jeremy Underwood did not play against S.C. State. It marked just the third time in his 125-game career that he did not compete for the Aggies.
• A&T’s starting lineup of Keyes, Middleton, Pack, Beckford and Steven Burrough at S.C .State on Monday was the Aggies 11th different starting lineup of the season.
From the coach:
“We’ve got to play exceptionally hard and follow our defensive game plan. We have to control Ingram, Copeland and Houston. We want to make sure we don’t get caught up in what happened last time. If you look at that game in Durham, it was 18-15 at about the 12-minute mark. We went on one of our notorious scoring droughts and a three-point Central lead turned into a 15-point lead. We can’t have those extended offensive droughts. Central is senior heavy, they’ve been through the wars, so we’re going to have to execute, execute, execute.” Head men’s basketball Cy Alexander on facing the Eagles