McDOUGALD-McLENDON GYM/DURHAM N.C. Central is in Durham for the fourth of a five-game homestand, and the Eagles have a chance to keep a very good thing going.
LeVelle Moton's club (6-20) has won two straight games, both against Division I teams. And tonight's opponent is independent Longwood, a team the Eagles beat here last season to split a home-and home series. The teams will play again on Feb. 25 in Farmville, Va.
Longwood (9-16) is on a five-game winning streak including a pair of non-Division I teams, but it includes a road victory over Fairleigh-Dickinson. But that goes by the boards as four Eagles score at least 15 points each in an 81-78 victory.
The first half is an offensive show from both teams, with the Eagles leading 47-42 after shooting 60 percent to the Lancers' 55.2.
Vincent Davis, Nick Chasten and C.J. Wilkerson all have double figures at halftime for NCCU, as do Martiz Washington and Antwan Carter for the visitors.
NCCU comes out even hotter in the second half, stretching the lead to 64-51 on a Davis 3-pointer with 12:15 to go.
Longwood makes a run, slicing the margin to 66-60 on an Aaron Mitchell layup at 8:57.
And the Lancers keep coming, with a 6-0 run ending in a Dana Smith layup with 4:03 left giving them a 71-70 lead.
NCCU leads by three after Dijon Manns' spin move makes it 74-71 with 2:39 remaining, but the drama stays thick.
It's 78-all when Longwood's Carter is called for a walk with 32.9 to go.
Wilkerson gets three free throws at 2.4 and makes the last two. Carter then throws the ball the length of the floor without touching anyone.
Dami Sapara draws the ensuing foul with no time running off, and hits the second of two to make it 81-78. P.J. Taylor intercepts the in-bounds and is fouled at 0.8, missing both free throws but there's no time for a play.
Davis ties his career high with 23 points, followed by Wilkerson with 20 including 12-of-15 from the line. Chasten has 15 points with nine rebounds, while Manns chips in 15 as well.
Carter leads Longwood with 22 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Smith with 16, Washington 15 and Mitchell 12.
NCCU shoots 54.5 percent in its best offensive output against a Division I team since the Eagles beat Longwood last year. The Lancers shoot 56.4 percent.
NCCU wins the rebound battle 30-29 and commits 20 turnovers to the visitors' 21.
They said it ...
NCCU coach LeVelle Moton: "It was our best offensive effort and worst defensive effort. They shot 56 percent. I jumped on the guys a little bit because that's not us. We're not the '83 Lakers or anything like that. We can't just outscore anybody. We got a couple of breaks down the stretch. ... These last three wins have definitely built character for us. We've come down the wire and it doesn't have to be that way. I did want to have a homestand. Our fans have never really seen us over the last couple of years. I wanted to put together as many home games as possible so the fans can know who we are and what we do."
Wilkerson: "In the closing minutes I had the ball again. Coach wants me to go get it. I kept getting fouled and had to go to the line and knock down some shots. We've got to stop giving away these leads, though. Vince played a good game tonight. He took good shots and knocked them down, and was very aggressive."
Davis: "I've been trying to make sure I take good shots. When I take good shots I usually hit them. We had what, four people with at least 15? It was a productive night. Dijon's getting into the game a lot more now."
What does it all mean?
That the five-game homestand idea worked, as the Eagles now know how it feels to have a winning streak and some momentum. And that Longwood will be looking for revenge in the Eagles' season finale.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Wilkerson's two free throws with 2.4 left.
Longwood leads 4-2.
NCCU: Won 3.
LU: Lost 1.
NCCU vs. Coastal Carolina, Monday, 7 p.m.
Southern Virginia at Longwood, Wednesday, 7 p.m.