by Mike Potter
McDOUGALD-McLENDON GYM/DURHAM N.C. Central tries once again to get LeVelle Moton his first win over a Division I team as head coach, and this would seem to be a good opportunity.
The opponent is Savannah State, the only other Historically Black College in the country that is playing as an independent this season. NCCU is the only Division I HBCU the Tigers are playing this season.
SSU has won three straight in the series over the last two seasons, including a 46-44 overtime win in Savannah on Jan. 20.
The game is being played at 3 p.m., the time rescheduled a couple of days ago from 7 p.m. because of concerns about nasty winter weather.
NCCU is 4-20 with all four victories over small colleges, and a win today would give the Eagles their highest win total since joining Division I as a transitional member two seasons ago. They get it, outscoring the visitors 7-2 after the final TV timeout to win 65-60.
NCCU scoring leader C.J. Wilkerson gets two fouls in the first 1:38 and plays only seven minutes in the first half. But the first half turns out to be a wash as the teams head into the locker room tied at 30-30. Savannah State is out-shooting the home team 48 percent to 37.9 at the break.
Neither team ever threatens to break the game open.
The Eagles suffer a blow with 3:59 left when Wilkerson fouls out with the score tied, but Patrick Hardy makes just one of two free throws.
Vincent Davis (pictured), Wilkerson's replacement, gives NCCU the lead for the last time on a 3-pointer with 2:10 left.
Then with 56 seconds to play, just a few seconds after NCCU point guard Michael Glasker is carried off the floor with an ankle sprain, his replacement P.J. Taylor steals the ball from Preston Blackmon for a layup and a four-point lead.
Arnold Louis hits the second of two free throws for SSU to make it 63-60, and then with 27 seconds left Taylor banks in the front end of a one-and-one before hitting a more conventional second free throw shot to ice it.
Dwayne Sims leads the Eagles with 15 points, while Wilkerson adds 13 and Davis 11.
Rashad Hassan leads SSU with 14, followed by Louis and Tracy Rankins with 11 each and Hardy 10.
NCCU shoots 45.1 percent for the game to the visitors' 50.0, but wins the rebound battle 31-26. The Eagles hit 12 of 16 free throws to SSU's 7-for-14.
They said it ...
NCCU coach LeVelle Moton: "I'm wearing this suit every single game now. We scored more than last time against them, but it was the same type of game coming down to one play. I told the guys this was going to be this type game. We put time, score and the situation on the clock all through practice yesterday. Three minutes, four minutes, 10 seconds, eight seconds and we've got to get a stop. They made some big shots but we made some big plays down the stretch. ... It was kind of fool's gold when Glasker sprained his ankle. (P.J.) is our best on-ball defender, and he does a marvelous job of pressuring the ball. He stepped up and made a significant play. And then he went in and finished. He got fouls and shot it off the backboard and made it. I had nothing to do with that - that's just the Lord watching over us, I guess."
Sims: "Today we executed better than the first time we played them. We worked really hard last night to get ready for today. This one feels very good. I'm proud of my team."
Davis: "I knew I was going to need to come in and make a big impact, because C.J. is the best player we have on the team. I think this definitely puts us over the hump. Hopefully if things go right we can win our last four."
Taylor: "Coach always tells us to be ready when your name is called. I had been watching the game and knew which way to force it. When he (Blackmon) tried to cross over I got my hand in there and hit the ball, and fortunately I got it and made the layup."
What does it all mean?
That the Eagles won't go winless against Division I teams this season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Taylor's steal and layup.
NCCU leads 5-4.
NCCU: Won 1.
SSU: Lost 1.
NCCU vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Savannah State at Stetson, Feb. 15, 7 p.m.