2014 MEAC Championship: North Carolina Central Tops Morgan State For First Ever NCAA Trip

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles and Jeremy Ingram held off the Morgan State Bears just long enough to make a little bit of history, earning the school's first ever bid to the NCAA Tournament. They also tied the school record for wins (28) in the process.

Jeremy Ingram and Justin Black are the top two scorers in the MEAC, and a few minutes of watching them play makes it obvious why. Ingram was getting whatever he wanted in the first half, cutting through the paint for a pull-up jumper, cutting back-door for a lay-up.

He even stuck a spot-up jumper over Ian Chiles, Morgan State's 7-foot-2 center and second leading scorer. By the half, Ingram had 18 points and was already a bucket away from his season average (20.3 ppg).

Justin Black... well, Justin played bench jockey for most of the first half, as he picked up his second foul with 10:48 left in the half. Of course, that was only after he missed his first four shot attempts and turned the ball over once.

Neither team was handling the game particularly well. Jay Copeland got into foul trouble figuring out how to defend Chiles, and Jordan Parks followed suit. The two teams combined for 15 turnovers, but a couple of timely threes by Blake Bozeman kept Morgan State close, and before you knew it, NCCU let the Bears run a set play for an open jumper and the score was tied, 31-31, at the half.

Ingram did all the scoring in the first half for the Eagles, and early in the second he let Karamo Jawara go to work, with six points early on to pace the Eagles. Then the fouls started creeping into the action, as well as some acting. Copeland picked up his third foul with 15:42 remaining while still struggling to stop Chiles, and on the ensuing possession, Jawara picked up his third on a charge. Things were looking bleak for the Eagles.

But Ingram wouldn't be denied. He drilled another three. Then Parks found himself under the hoop with Chiles after a missed shot, and Chiles was called for an offensive foul on the clear out, since the ref on the other side of the play thought that Parks' semi-flop was actually contact. Three fouls on Chiles with a whopping 13:40 left to play.

As good as the Eagles were (and have been all season) at keeping Morgan State from ever developing any kind of flow to their game, they suffered the same fate, and were never really able to put together a string of field goals. But they were able to hit their free throws (22-for-26 in the second half) and went practically pre-shot-clock old school. After Chiles hit a jumper to cut NCCU's lead to 50-45 with 8:37 to play, the Eagles stayed busy and rebounding on offense, and put together a possession that was nearly a minute and a half long.

By the time the Bears got the ball back, there was 7:24 to play and the deficit had grown by two. Of course, by then the refs were calling fouls every time the arena breeze ruffled a player's jersey. Multiple ticky-tack calls and make-up calls, and before you know it Ingram was sitting with his fourth foul at the six minute mark for a charge that wasn't.

Fortunately for the Eagles, Reggie Groves found his three-point groove at the right moment (with one second left on the shot clock), and Morgan State continued their offensive struggles when a lack of ball movement led to a low quality three, and Chiles earned his fourth foul with 3:42 left by going over the back of 6-foot-7 Jordan Parks (seriously? no wonder he only had six rebounds).

The Bears began jacking desperation threes but never got much closer, because almost none of them went in, and the Eagles kept drilling their free throws. LeVelle Moton was unable to hold back the emotion, as the tears began leaking before the final buzzer had sounded. Ingram's 29 points will lead his teammates into the Big Dance, while Ian Chiles' career high of 26 came in possibly his final game of his career, pending the other postseason tournaments.

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