|Adrian Powell’s NC A&T squad is looking for its first MEAC Championship since 1995.|
After a week of last-second shots, overtimes and upsets, the race for the MEAC title is down to two teams. North Carolina A&T and Morgan State are the sole survivors of an exciting, unpredictable week of college basketball. The two teams will meet on the court at the Norfolk Scope on Saturday afternoon to decide who will represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.
|Ian Chiles will need to come up big for Morgan
State on Saturday. (Baltimore Sun Photo)
Fifth-seeded Morgan State punched their ticket to the championship game first. After surviving an overtime contest against Savannah State on Thursday night, Morgan State came away with a relatively comfortable 82-71 win against Bethune-Cookman. The Bears had three players in double-figures, led by Shaquille Duncan’s 17 points and aided by Justin Black and DeWayne Johnson’s 16 points a piece. They also succeeded in slowing down BCU’s Adrien Coleman, holding him to just eight points.
It looked like North Carolina A&T would also skate into the championship game with a big win, but Delaware State is not the type of team to go away easily. The Hornets cut the Aggies double digit lead down to two with under 20 second to go. However, DSU couldn’t close the deal and found themselves on the short end of the 84-78 score.
The two teams met once this season, with Morgan State eeking out a 55-52 win in Greensboro. The game was one of many that A&T gave away in the regular season, miss handling the ball and taking bad shots.
“We played without discipline in the last five minutes, and it cost us,” A&T coach Cy Alexander said. “We made very bad decisions and didn’t finish in the clutch.”
However, A&T has proven it can finish close games, going 4-2 in games decided by five points or less since then.
Morgan State dropped three straight after their win, but have gone on to win 10 of their last 11 heading into Saturday’s championship game. They have been red hot for over a month, with only a loss to Delaware State setting them back.
Both teams entered the tournament with little pressure. Neither was expected to make it to the semifinal game, let alone the championship round. Now both teams will be feeling the bright lights. While both coaches have championship experince, A&T’s Alexander and Morgan’s Todd Bozeman have won a combined seven MEAC titles, the only player who has won a MEAC championship is Morgan’s DeWayne Jackson. In fact, Saturday’s game will be North Carolina A&T’s first appearance in the championship game since 1997.
It’s fair to say that Morgan has the most talented team, if not by much. But Alexander knows what it takes to win championships, and he may have finally instilled in his team the grit and determination needed to play greater than the sum of its parts. And by being the lower seed in this game, the Aggies just might be the favorite.