by Mike Potter
McLENDON-McDOUGALD GYM/DURHAM It's a much bigger game for N.C. Central tonight than the fans seem to think.
The Eagles are taking on another set of Eagles from Florida Gulf Coast University, which is also in a transition status into full membership in NCAA Division I. If NCCU can win tonight, it's the first win over a Division I team for first-year head coach LeVelle Moton.
FGCU (2-6) is coming off a big victory, having won 86-82 at Atlantic Sun foe South Carolina-Upstate on Monday night to break a road losing streak of 24 games.
NCCU (2-7) also won its last game, taking out visiting Carver Bible College 82-63 11 days ago before the exam break.
The teams have met once before, with FGCU winning 66-58 on its home court last season.
This time the visitors prevail 76-67 on the strength of 21 steals.
The Eagles are tied at 39 at halftime.
NCCU, playing without second-leading scorer Vincent Davis who is temporarily away from the team for personal reasons, leads by as much as 13-4 after scoring 13 straight points. The visitors respond with a 27-7 run to go up 31-20, but NCCU comes back for the halftime tie.
NCCU leads 58-53 on a Dami Sapara free throw with 11:35 left, but the visitors take control down the stretch. The Eagles trail 61-60 when point guard Michael Glasker fouls out at the 5:58 mark. It's still only 66-65 with 2:43 left, but NCCU can't score again.
The visitors get 14 points from Reed Baker and a double-double of 12 points and 11 assists from Reggie Chambers. Derrick O'Neil adds 11 points and Eddie Murray 11 off the bench for FGCU.
C.J. Wilkerson (pictured) paces NCCU with a season-high 26 points, followed by 12 from Nick Chasten and 10 from T.J. Granger.
FGCU shoots 43.5 percent to NCCU's 37.7. NCCU wins the rebound battle 48-34, but commits 29 turnovers to FGCU's 16.
They said it ...
NCCU coach LeVelle Moton: "We gave it away. What you saw is a young inexperienced team that was in their first D-I battle. Our wins had been pretty much blowouts. I knew this would be a close game. I told them before the game it would come to the seven-minute mark. At the seven-minute mark you have to tighten up your bootstraps. That's when good players and good teams make plays. I told C.J. 'This team doesn't have too many 'Batmans.' You have to be Batman'"
FGCU coach Dave Balza: "This group has just continued to chop wood every day and continue to get better. There's no magic trick to winning on the road, you've got to play just as hard and do all the things you do at home. It's just about playing hard ... We got a lot of deflections. We had only one day's prep for them, so we played that little zone and it gave them some trouble."
Wilkerson: "It was a tough loss for us. After the nine-minute mark we started turning the ball over way too much. They applied good pressure on us, but we've got to put it on ourselves. We didn't execute."
What does it all mean?
That NCCU is in trouble when Davis doesn't play and Glasker fouls out.
Stars of the night
Play of the night
Chambers' layup with 1:34 left to put the visitors up 70-65.
FGCU leads 2-0.
NCCU: Lost 1.
FGCU: Won 3.
NCCU at Indiana, Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
FGCU vs. DePaul, Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.