It's a minor miracle that the North Carolina Central Eagles were able to focus on playing this game. Coach LeVelle Moton's one-year-old son spilled hot coffee on his face a few days ago, and Coach Levelle Moton almost didn't make the trip because he wanted to make sure his son was alright.
It's also a minor miracle that NCCU was able to keep the lead from sticking in double digits until about the 12 minute mark of the second half; the Cyclones shot a ridiculous 62% from the field in the first half, and then actually got better in the second half (65%). The Eagles were no slouches, shooting 48% from the field themselves, but it's surprising they weren't down more considering that making half their shots made them the less efficient offense.
Jeremy Ingram had a great night in his final collegiate game, and gave a nice demonstration of his skills for the next level, getting into the lane and creating easy shots for himself and his teammates - he got and made his own shots (43%), made his free throws and finished the night with 28 points. Karamo Jawara added 16 and Emanuel Chapman chipped in another 10. On many nights, against many teams, that probably would have been enough.
But not against Iowa State, who saw every single starter score at least 14 points. They were led by Georges Niang, who didn't play the last seven minutes after rolling his ankle but still finished with 24 points and six rebounds. Iowa State finished the game shooting a ridiculous 35-55 from the field, as well as 52% (9-for-17) from distance - and that was after they cooled off a touch in the second half. You know things are going your way when on two different occasions, your three-point attempt skips off the front of the rim and then up and through the net. That's when you know it's your night.
NCCU gave it their all, and their everything - Ingram and Houston huddled with Moton for a final pep talk as the tears of frustration came out in their final game of their careers. The final score didn't show it, but they gave it their best shot, and it was enough for a while, just not for a win. The Cyclones added on a trail of offensive destruction; 17 points and eight rebounds for Melvin Ejim, 14 points and seven rebounds for DeAndre Kane, even Monte Morris and Dustin Hogue tallied 15 points each.
The Eagles may have been overmatched in the end against a team like Iowa State, but this means nothing but good things going forward. The good press from reaching the tournament, proof that they can hang with a much bigger and stronger major program's squad, all of these will serve LeVelle Moton well going into recruiting season and beyond.