Eagles fly home with MEAC championship

03/16/2014 12:11 PM

02/15/2015 10:42 AM

After winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament, North Carolina Central University has been selected as a No. 14 seed in the NCAA East Region. The Eagles (28-5) will battle the third-seeded Cyclones of Iowa State (26-7) on Friday night.

The Eagles will play at approximately 10 p.m. (ET) in the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. Their game follows approximately 20 minutes after the preceding game that features No. 6 North Carolina and No. 11 Providence, who tip off at 7:20 p.m.

The Eagles enter the NCAA field of 68 winners of 20-straight contests and have tied for the most wins in a single season in school history, matching the 1989 NCAA Division II National Championship team who went 28-4 and the legendary John McClendons 1950-51 team that finished 28-5.

NCCU clinched its first berth into the Division I NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 16, with its 71-62 win over Morgan State inside the Norfolk Scope Arena. Jeremy Ingram’s game-high 29 points coupled with clutch shooting and tenacious defense down-the-stretch was just what NCCU needed to end a 64-year old drought as the Eagles last won a conference tournament championship in 1950.

The 87th meeting between the Eagles and Bears shaped up to be a heavyweight title fight with as the maroon and gray led for most of the frame behind a hot start by Ingram, as the MEAC Player of the Year, scored 18 points in the first half, while Morgan State’s Justin Black was saddled with foul trouble early.

Ingram finished the first half shooting 7-for-10 from-the-field, including 3-for-3 from three-point range.

The win by North Carolina overshadowed a great performance by Ian Chiles, the 7-foot-2 senior center for Morgan State, who had perhaps the best game of his career with 26 points, six rebounds.

Chiles also altered several shots by the Eagles. NCCU's Jay Copeland and Jordan Parks both fouled to trying to defend him.

"I thought we started off really well. We had more discipline, but got into some foul trouble,” North Carolina Central Head Coach LeVelle Moton said. "We just made plays down the stretch.”

Morgan State dogged NCCU throughout the second half, repeatedly tying the game every time the Eagles tried to pull away.

Central’s Reggie Groves drilled a step-back three-pointer to stretch the lead out to five at 55-50 as the Scope erupted. After that, it came down to free throw shooting. NCCU converted 25 of 30 free throws in the second half (83 percent) to ice the win.

N.C. Central was motivated by the memory of losing 55-42 in last year's conference tournament to N.C. A&T, a team the Eagles had beaten twice in the regular season.

“We lost that game when we shouldn’t have,” Ingram said. "We just came out and took it one game at a time and just gave it our all.”

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