SAN ANTONIO — N.C. Central introduced its men’s basketball team to America on Friday night.
The No. 14 seed Eagles ran their motion offense, found their shots and used their suffocating defense to great effect in the second round of the NCAA tournament. They held an early lead, trailed by just six at halftime, made great plays, and scared No. 3 seed Iowa State, but in the end, the Cyclones were too talented and too deep, pulling out a 93-75 victory at the AT&T Center.
The Cyclones disrupted N.C. Central’s offense during the second half, limiting senior guard Jeremy Ingram to 28 points. Meanwhile their trio of senior DeAndre Kane, junior Dustin Hoge and sophomore Georges Niang took over offensively and helped Iowa State open a 15-point lead with 10 minutes, 55 seconds remaining.
The Cyclones had five players score in double figures and shot 63 percent from the field.
“It’s extremely difficult to slow them down,” N.C. Central coach LeVelle Moton said. “You’re basically picking your poison. Those are pros out there, man, and you’ve got to decide if you’re going to double Kane and leave out some shooters and be late on rotation , or if you’re just going to play it straight up. … It’s a nightmare.”
Kane’s smooth perimeter game coupled with the hustle of Hoge and Niang inside wore the Eagles down. Once the Cyclones were moving in transition, the Eagles had little hope – and Iowa State’s lead inched to 20 points with eight minutes to go on a Niang 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The Cyclones went 9 of 17 from 3-point range.
Despite Friday’s disappointing loss, N.C. Central fans will mark this season down as one for the ages, considering the exciting run their basketball team made.
The Eagles made the NCAA tournament as a Division I team for the first time in school history. They captured the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament championship for the first time, having moved from Division II to Division I in 2011.
There were signature wins over N.C. State and Old Dominion. There was a dominating stretch of play during the MEAC regular season where the Eagles finished 15-1 and captured that title.
They were unbeaten at home (14-0) for the first time since the 1997-98 season – dispatching teams at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium.
The team won the second-most regular-season games (25) since John McLendon’s squad finished 26-5 in 1950-51.
“Right now it’s kind of hard for me to swallow this and give out how proud I am of our accomplishments,” N.C. Central guard Emanuel Chapman said. “But the thing I’m most proud of is that everything that we did and everything that we accomplished in our conference … we did everything together.”