2023 MEAC Basketball Tournament: North Carolina Central routes Delaware State 89-59
The two-seeded North Carolina Central Eagles defeated the seven-seeded Delaware State Hornets 89-59 in the quarterfinals of the MEAC tournament Wednesday night at the Norfolk Scope.
North Carolina Central (18-11 overall and 10-4 in conference play) closed out their regular season on a seven-game winning streak. The Eagles are looking to win their first MEAC tournament title since 2019 after winning it three years in a row from 2017-2019, respectively. Central had four players that scored in double figures in the matchup. The Eagles were led by Junior guard Justin Wright, who scored 23 points (team high) and shot 100 percent from the free throw line. Senior guard Eric Boone added 13 points and 6 assists (team high) and shot 55 percent from the floor. Senior center Brendan Medley-Bacon, who won the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year award this season, contributed 12 points and freshman forward Devin Butts tallied 15 points off the bench in the route. The Eagles led by as many as 36 points in the affair.
LeVelle Moton, who has been the head coach since 2009, gave his thoughts on the victory and what he took away from the matchup.
“I think Eric Boone is the best defensive point guard in the country and I think he gives us a different type of energy. We got at it defensively tonight,” Moton stated.
The Eagles have two players that were selected to the All-Defensive team in guard Eric Boone and center Brendan Medley-Bacon, respectively. North Carolina Central have now won eight straight games overall including the win against the Hornets. Moton elaborated on how important momentum is going into the tournament and how they can continue their winning streak.
“I think it’s huge, the truth is we gave some games away earlier in the season. It’s not going to be easy at all. We had some trials and tribulations throughout the year, but they understood the games that we lost, we gave them away pretty much. I am all about the defensive end of the floor and once we establish that we are as good as anyone,” Moton said.
Delaware State (6-24 overall and 4-10 in conference play), were looking to win their first MEAC tournament title since 2005. The Hornets came into the tournament on a four-game losing streak after losing their season finale to Maryland Eastern Shore. Sophomore guard Khyrie Staten led the Hornets as he accumulated 18 points in the matchup. Sophomore Forward Cameron Stitt and Junior guard Martaz Robinson both contributed 12 points and 13 points, respectively.
Delaware State head coach Stan Waterman, who is in his 2nd season with the Hornets, discussed his thoughts on the blowout loss and analysis of what transpired.
“Great tournament atmosphere but we are disappointed with the outcome. I did not see a thirty-point loss coming to a very good North Carolina central team, but they played very well, and they showed why they won 7 games in a row”, Waterman said.
The Hornets shot 5-21 from three-point range, while the Eagles converted 14-27 of their three-point attempts. Waterman elaborated on what aspects of the game he thought were positive despite the losing effort.
“Obviously we are a young team and our guys fought to the end and we are learning how to compete. They [NC Central] defended well and they made it difficult for us to hit shots in the second half and I think we will learn from that,” Waterman stated.
Sophomore forward Cameron Stitts voiced his experience about his first season with the Hornets. Stitts played his first year of college basketball at Florida Southwestern State, a junior college.
“This is my first year playing division 1 and this season was a learning curve. I was learning the speed of the game, strength of the game, and the mentality of it,” Stitts said.
North Carolina Central will advance to the semifinals on Friday as they await the winner between Norfolk State and Coppin State.