Savannah State (11-17) at NC Central (23-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, March 3, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McDougald-McLendon Gym (3,116) -- Durham, North Carolina. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Savannah St. 6-5, NCCU 13-0. Away Record: Savannah St. 5-10, NCCU 10-5. Neutral Record: Savannah St. 0-2, NCCU 0-0. Conference Record: Savannah St. 9-5, NCCU 13-1. Series Record: Savannah State leads, 8-7.
GAME NOTES: With their sights set on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference crown, the NC Central Eagles close out their home schedule on Monday evening, with a conference showdown with the Savannah State Tigers.
LeVelle Moton's Eagles have already clinched at least a share of the regular- season title and with a win here will earn the school's first conference championship at the Division I level. NCCU enters the game having won 15 straight games and moved to 13-1 atop the MEAC standings with Saturday's 86-44 blasting of South Carolina State.
Horace Broadnax's Tigers had their fair share of struggles out of conference, as evidenced by their poor 11-17 overall record. However, Savannah State has been much more competitive inside the MEAC, sitting in fifth place with a decent 9-5 league ledger. The Tigers have won two straight games and three of their last four, including Saturday's 71-67 overtime battle at NC A&T.
Savannah State clings to an 8-7 series advantage with NC Central, but it is the Eagles seeking a regular-season sweep after routing the Tigers on the road on Feb. 17, 76-62.
The Tigers have struggled this season with offensive proficiency. Savannah State is averaging a mere 61.9 ppg on just .419 shooting. The woes have carried over to the free-throw line as well, where the team converts just 65.3 percent of the time. There are no prolific scoring options to speak of on the roster, as Deven Williams paces the Tigers in the scoring column at 10.5 ppg. No other player is currently averaging double figures for Savannah State, although, Joshua Montgomery is just under the mark at 9.1 ppg.
The Tigers got hot when it counted most, shooting 57.1 percent from the floor in overtime to outlast NC A&T this past weekend in Greensboro. Williams led the way for Savannah State with 19 points. Jeremiah Hill added 13 points off the bench, while Jyles Smith recorded a double-double, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
While the Tigers have had their problems in terms of efficient play, the Eagles have soared at both ends of the floor this season. NCCU is shooting a healthy .461 overall, leading to 73.8 ppg. The defensive effort has been even better, with NC Central ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense (58.9 ppg) and in the top five in field-goal percentage defense (.373), which includes a mere .280 from behind the arc for the opposition. The offense funnels through senior guard Jeremy Ingram, who ranks second in the MEAC at a hefty 20.4 ppg. Getting Ingram the ball is the conference's top distributor in Emanuel Chapman (6.8 apg). Ingram is aided in the scoring column by Alfonzo Houston (10.0 ppg), Jordan Parks (9.9 ppg) and Karamo Jawara (8.6 ppg).
The Eagles made light work of South Carolina State this past weekend with another stifling defensive performance. NCCU held SCSU to a mere .283 shooting performance, including an ugly 2-of-16 showing from behind the arc. In addition, NC Central held a 45-31 edge in rebounding and converted 18 Bulldog turnovers into 25 points. Ingram was once again instrumental in the win, pouring in a game-high 25 points, thanks in part to five 3-pointers. Parks had a huge game as well, posting a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds in just 18 minutes of work off the bench.
The Eagles recorded an easy win at Savannah State a couple of weeks ago. Not much will change in Durham, where NCCU hasn't lost all season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: NC Central 74, Savannah State 59
03/03 10:34:15 ET