GREENSBORO — N.C. Central made four free throws with less than 23 seconds to play in Saturday’s game against rival N.C. A&T to wrap up a 66-62 win.
“Typical Central-A&T,” NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said. “We knew it was going to be a barn burner, a dogfight.”
With neither team able to significantly distance itself from the other, the game ultimately came down to which squad could best reprise the role as the heavy.
The Eagles were the tough guys, first-year A&T coach Cy Alexander said.
“Their bigs outplayed our bigs, just from a physical toughness standpoint,” Alexander said. “And that’s what bothers me — they were tougher than us physically and mentally.”
NCCU figured out that nobody but A&T’s Adrian Powell was hitting anything from outside, so the Eagles went to a zone defense that the Aggies couldn’t overcome, leading to a bunch of long faces in the locker room, Alexander said.
“It’s like a morgue in there right now,” Alexander said. “It’s sad, it’s tough because we felt like we had the game, and we didn’t make the plays.
“Down the stretch, (NCCU) didn’t miss a free throw.”
But Powell misfired on three freebies when NCCU was up by four with less than three minutes left in the game.
“That kind of hurt us,” Powell said. “Those were crucial free throws I missed.”
“When you’re still learning how to win, you’ve got to be able to do all of those little things,” Alexander said.
Moton has expressed concern this season that NCCU’s new additions weren’t up to speed, but he changed his tone after the win over A&T.
“My newcomers kind of grew up before my eyes,” Moton said. “Can’t say enough about Stanton Kidd.”
Kidd had 24 points and nine rebounds.
Powell didn’t give much credence to the notion that all of the Eagles who played were tougher than the Aggies, but he did single out Kidd for coming up with crucial rebounds and baskets.
“No. 11, I feel like he’s the one that won the game for them,” Powell said. “He’s was their hustle guy tonight.”
Kidd (6-7, 215), a transfer from South Plains, a community college in Texas, said he didn’t feel particularly pressured while playing in his first Aggie-Eagle game. Frenzied gyms were the norm back home in Baltimore, he said.
A&T’s Lawrence Smith was whistled for a flagrant foul that sent Kidd to the foul line with 22.6 seconds left in the game.
Kidd knocked down the first free throw and laughed at the crowd before burying the next one.
The Eagles also maintained possession on the flagrant foul, and NCCU guard Ray Willis was fouled before knocking down two of his 17 points.
Kidd made all 13 of his free throws against A&T, and Willis hit his five attempts.
“I thought the free-throw line was critical,” Moton said. “I thought that was the determining factor, because we got our opportunities and we really converted and that’s what you’ve got to do on the road to come out of a place like this with a win.”
While NCCU held A&T to 34.5 percent shooting from the field, Powell, who scored 29 points, got too many open looks, Moton said.
“Powell caught fire,” Moton said.
NCCU committed 18 turnovers, too many of them unforced, Moton said.
“We’ve got stop trying to (be) spectacular,” Moton said. “These kids watch too much SportsCenter. I just need to probably strip their cable in their dorm rooms.”
NCCU 66, N.C. A&T 62
Percentages: FG .417, FT .840. 3-Point Goals: 5-14, .357 (Ingram 4-5, Kidd 1-2, Anyaorah 0-1, Ferguson 0-3, Chapman 0-3). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 7 (Willis 3, Copeland, Jr. 2, Jawara, Kidd). Turnovers: 18 (Kidd 5, Chapman 4, Ferguson 3, Ingram 3, Copeland, Jr. 2, Jawara). Steals: 4 (Copeland, Jr., Jawara, Chapman, Ingram).
Percentages: FG .345, FT .722. 3-Point Goals: 9-26, .346 (Powell 6-10, Louisme 2-8, Witter 1-4, Underwood 0-1, Buck 0-1, Middleton 0-2). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 5 (Witter 4, Upchurch). Turnovers: 11 (Underwood 4, Middleton 2, Powell, Witter, Louisme, Beckford, Buck). Steals: 10 (Powell 3, Underwood 2, Louisme 2, Beckford, Middleton, Witter).
A—5,032. Officials—Harold Harris, Anthony Franklin, A.J. Desai.