North Carolina Central University junior guard Justin Wright pours in all of his 20 points in the second half and overtime to lift the Eagles over Norfolk State University 76-75 inside a rocking McDougald-McLendon Arena on Monday night.
The Eagles were able to Protect the Nest and post a 13-1 home record this season, which is the best mark since the squad went 12-0 at home in the 2019-20 season.
The maroon and gray got out to an amazing start on both ends of the floor. They led by as much as 24 (35-11) in the first half. After missing their first three shots from long-range reigning MEAC Defensive Player of the Week senior guard Eric Boone and junior guard Fred Cleveland Jr. each hit a pair of triples to spark a 17-0 from the 15:35 mark to 9:19 remaining in the first stanza.
NCCU shot 51.7% from the field, 7-15 from long range, and used great ball movement as 10 of their 15 first-half field goals were assisted to build its lead. The Spartans were able to find their footing towards the end of the half to make the score 40-20, Eagles after 20 minutes of action.
The second frame was a much different story.
The Eagles were able to continue the solid play and generate a 29-point (55-26) lead after Cleveland Jr. hit a 3-pointer with 14:22 to go in regulation. However, the Spartans answered with stout defense and efficient shooting to generate an impressive scoring run.
NSU went on a massive 25-6 run to cut the NCCU lead to 10 with 7:11 to go (51-61). The Spartans continued to fight and eventually tied the game at 66 after Jack Doumbia split a pair of free throws with 15 seconds to go in regulation to force overtime.
In the extra five minutes, Wright scored seven points including going 3-4 from the charity stripe. He also showed his two-way excellence by getting a pair of his three steals with 2:24 and six seconds remaining to help NCCU close out the game.
Cleveland Jr. continued his strong play to finish the contest with 16 points and four rebounds while Boone ended with seven points, four assists, and three takeaways.
Senior Brendan Medley-Bacon was solid and finished with 10 points and five boards, while fellow seniors Kris Monroe and Cameron Butler combined for 11 points, eight rebounds, and two assists in their final action inside The Nest.
Junior guard Ja’Darius Harris netted six points and had the Eagles’ lone block, while his classmate forward Devin Butts chipped in with six points.
The Spartans were led by two double-figure scorers. Kris Bankston had a monster game finishing with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. He hit 11 of his 17 field goal attempts and seven of his 10 shots from the foul line. George Beale added 12 points on 57% shooting (4-7) and claimed five of NSU’s 13 steals.
Courtesy: NC Central Athletics