|No. 1 NCCU Cruises Past No. 9 Coppin State||< All News|
|Wednesday, March 11, 2015|
NORFOLK, Va. – By now, North Carolina Central is way past the point of having to make any sort of statement.
So let’s call Wednesday’s 91-43 annihilation of Coppin State in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinal a simple reaffirmation of the formidable task the rest of the league – especially those who made a mild threat to end the Eagles’ unbeaten streak during the regular season- has of dethroning the defending conference champions.
Jordan Parks posted a double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds as the Eagles did what they’re supposed to do – crush any hope of an upset by a team that played its way into the final eight. And remember, Coppin State came one three-pointer shy of posting a win in Durham back in January.
This time, North Carolina Central (25-6) was up 12-1 after the first five minutes. Coppin State (8-23) hung around for awhile, but North Carolina Central pushed its lead into the 20s just before halftime. The second half was all but academic.
The 48-point margin of victory nipped last year’s 92-46 drubbing of Howard for North Carolina Central’s largest in tournament history and fell five point shy of the tournament record of 53 set in 1975 by Morgan State in a 121-68 first round victory over Maryland Eastern Shore.
“This gives everyone confidence and establishes our post-season identity,” said NCCU coach LeVelle Moton. “Contrary to what everyone else thinks, no one cares about anything we’ve accomplished. We understand the magnitude of the situation and will take it one game at a time.”
Parks did use the “statement” word.
“It was a statement for us to come out and impose our will,” said the senior.
North Carolina Central prides itself on its defense – this was the 13th time this season an opponent scored less than 50 – but Moton, who conceded he did “a poor job of coaching” in the regular season match-up, found a way to contain Coppin State’s up-tempo, long-range game.
“It [the 79-77 near escape] got our attention; probably the best thing that could happen to us,” Moton said. “I try to low hanging fruit for motivation. The focus on defense was infectious. We bought in.”
Coppin State could only manage 20 <attempts> from three-point range and could never get into any offensive rhythm. Point guard Taariq Cephas was contained to nine points.
“It was a great game plan,” said NCCU senior Anthony McDonald, who scored 19 points and was 4-8 from behind the arc. “We forced them into shooting a lot of contested 2s and made them drive.”
With the defense in place, the North Carolina Central offense took care of itself.
Parks hit his first three shots and controlled the paint. He finished 13 of 16 from the field, exiting with 5:16 remaining after Nimrod Hilliard fed him an alley-oop that made it an 80-41 game.
“I was lost in the game, sometimes I didn’t even know what the score was,” Parks said. “That’s a good thing.”
Hillard, whose drives to the basket allowed Parks and other N.C. Central posts to get open, had a stat line of 12 points, six assists and two steals.
Arnold Fripp scored 14 points to lead Coppin State.
“From the beginning of the game, North Carolina Central was the aggressor,” said Coppin State coach Michael Grant. “Once they jumped out on us, it was tough to get back in the game.”
North Carolina Central will face the Howard-Delaware State winner in the semifinals Friday at 6 p.m.