North Carolina Central came into Monday night’s game against Howard having not played in nearly a week, but showed little signs of rust. NCCU jumped out to huge first half lead and coasted the rest of the way, beating Howard 71-36 in McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium. Four players scored in double figures for NCCU, which extended its winning streak to five games.
NCCU coach LeVelle Moton admitted he was a little worried about his team’s week-long layoff between games heading into Monday night’s game against Howard. The team last played at Bethune-Cookman on Jan. 14.
“The break did kind of concern me as far as our rhythm,” he said. “When you have a rhythm, you just want to play the following day.”
It turns out Moton didn’t have much to worry about. The Eagles shot just under 70 percent from the field in the first half, while holding the Bison to just 22 percent. They led 40-15 at halftime. No Bison player finished with more than 8 points.
“Right now we have to be able to make shots,” Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry said after the game. “We don’t have a real high basketball IQ right now, which has been an issue for us all year.”
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm from the field in the second half, but NCCU (11-7, 3-0) made up for its’ poor shooting by hitting 18 of 23 free-throws to win in a convincing fashion. Howard also turned the ball over 17 times, while forcing just three takeaways.
It was the second consecutive blowout for Howard (4-16, 1-5) in three days. North Carolina A&T had its’ way with Howard during a 68-40 win on Sunday. Though his team has been saddled with several injuries to key members of his rotation, Nickelberry isn’t using that as a crutch.
“It’s not the reason we’ve gotten beat the way we have the last two games. We can’t use that as an excuse,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have a few guys to step forward and dig themselves out. If not, it’s going to be a long year.”
Stanton Kidd led NCCU with 12 points. Drimir Ferguson chipped in 11 while Jay Copeland and Emmanuel Chapman finished with 10 each. That type of balance is what led Moton to state that this is the best team he’s ever coached.
“They don’t really care about the accolades and who is the leading scorer,” he said.
The win keeps NCCU’s MEAC record at a perfect 4-0. Though school returned to the MEAC just a few years ago, Moton says his team is already becoming the team everyone in the conference loves to hate.
“Every time we go somewhere else, we’re the hated team,” he said. “Other schools look at North Carolina Central like teams in the ACC look at Duke.”