Eagles Off to Best MEAC Start After Edging Morgan State
By KEVIN BUCZEK
DURHAM, NC — Freshman, forward Alyssa Thompson recorded season-high totals of 14 points and nine rebounds and the North Carolina Central University women’s basketball team made 8-of-10 free throws in the final minute to hold off Morgan State University, 60-57, in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play Monday afternoon in McDougald-McLendon Arena.
The Eagles trailed throughout the first half before a using a big 24-18 fourth quarter to once again rally for a league win. The hosts shot 55.6-percent (5-9) from the field and 77.8-percent (14-18) from the free throw line in the final quarter.
NCCU (5-12 Overall, 3-1 MEAC) has trailed at halftime in all four of their conference games, but have rallied for the victory on three of those occasions. The Eagles 3-1 ledger in conference play is their best start in the MEAC through four games since joining the league in 2011-12.
Sophomore Paulina Afriyie, the reigning MEAC Co-Defensive Player of the Week, supplied her fifth double-double. She scored eight of her 13 points and grabbed nine of her game-high 12 rebounds in the second half. Afriyie filled up the box score by adding three assists, three blocks and three steals.
Freshman Kieche White and junior Rodneysha Martin chipped in nine and eight points, respectively. White was 7-8 from the free throw line and Martin was a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe. They combined for 7-8 precision from the 15-foot line in the final minute.
Morgan State (10-8, 3-2) never trailed in the first half and a junior forward Aunesha Williams tip-in to start the second period extended the Bears lead to 11 points at 20-9.
The Eagles fought back for the rest of the second quarter to close within two points at halftime. The 15-6 rally featured 10 consecutive NCCU points by Thompson. Martin then canned a three-pointer from the top of the arc and Afriyie made the front end of two free throws in the final minute to close the deficit to 26-24 at the midway point.
Two more free throws by White at the 4:37 mark of the third quarter gave NCCU its first lead at 34-32. However, a three-pointer and a layup by junior Kayla Horn helped MSU regain a slight 39-36 edge heading into the final period.
Afriyie scored the first two hoops of the fourth quarter to set the tone for the final 10 minutes. The Bears were able to tie the contest for a fourth and final time before a free throw by Afriyie put NCCU ahead for the final five minutes. Buckets by junior Caira Benton, junior Deja McCain and Thompson then pushed the Eagles advantage to 52-47 heading into the final minute, where NCCU sealed the comeback win from the free-throw line.
NCCU was whistled for a season-low 13 fouls and made a season-high 22 free throws, but was held without a made 3-pointer for the first time.
Junior Jayla Calhoun provided eight points and seven rebounds. Classmate Dominique Adams dished out a game-high four assists.
Senior Tykyrah Williams had a big performance for the visiting Bears with a total of 12 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, two assists and one block.
NCCU next visits Washington, D.C., for a MEAC clash at Howard University on Saturday at 2 p.m.