|North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central will meet for the third time this season in the MEAC Quarterfinals. (A&T photo)|
One of the best rivalries in HBCU basketball will get a third act this season. NC A&T defeated Florida A&M 65-54 on Tuesday evening to set up a meeting with arch-rival North Carolina Central on Wednesday.
NCCU (22-8, 15-1) got the better of NC A&T (16-16, 8-8) both times during the regular season, pulling out wins in close games. The first meeting took place on Dec. 1 in Greensboro. A&T led by four with less than four minutes to go before NCCU went on an 8-0 run to stun the A&T on its home floor.
Nearly three months later, the teams met for a rematch in Durham. A&T got off to a hot start, leading by as many as 12 points in the first half before things fell apart. The Aggies shot just 31 percent from the free-throw line for the game and heading back to Greensboro with a 51-47 loss.
NC A&T has played solid basketball since that loss, winning three out of four games, including Tuesday’s win over FAMU. Their only blemish during that stretch was a 55-45 loss to regular season champion Norfolk State. North Carolina Central has continued its steady play all season, finishing on a five game winning streak.
NCCU is seeking it’s first conference title since it won the 1950 CIAA Championship under the leadership of Basketball Hall of Fame member John McLendon. NC A&T has won the MEAC crown 15 times, but none since 1995, the longest drought in program history.
Looking ahead to Wednesday’s game, North Carolina Central will definitely be the favored team. And they should be, given their spectacular 22-8 record, and the fact that they have won both previous contest. They also have three All-MEAC performers in Jeremy Ingram, Stanton Kidd and Ray Willis. Still, in rivalry games anything can happen. And rivalry games in conference tournaments in March, with not only bragging rights but a season on line…you get the picture.
I saw these two teams play at the end of Feburary, and the Aggies literally gave the game away at the free throw line. Not sure what A&T coach Cy Alexander told his team after the game, but he looked like he gave it to his team pretty good. I’m sure with that tounge-lashing in their ear, the A&T players will do everything they can to avoid a repeat performance.
This is gonna be fun!