It didn't look good early, as the Aggies came out firing, building a 13-point lead in the first half.
NCCU would claw its way back via an unexpected barrage from redshirt sophomore Nicolas Fennell. Normally 5 points per game scorer, Fennell powered his way to a couple three-point plays and threw down a dunk, grabbing 10 points over the final 8 plus minutes of the half. Thanks to his work, NCCU had a one-point lead by halftime.
It was more of the same in the second half, with A&T surging back into a 7-pt lead at 58-51 following Tyrone Lyons' three-pointer with 12:31 remaining. From there though - the Eagles offense ignited, scoring 35 points in the final 12 minutes. Fennell finished with a career-best 19, Jibri Blount was his normal star self with 19 points and 12 boards and CJ Keyser came off the bench to lead the way with 20 points, 10 of which came at the free-throw line.
Free throws made for some sweaty moments for the Eagles down the stretch, as they made only 10 out of 20 attempts in the final minutes. In the end, the rest of their game was good enough.
North Carolina Central beats North Carolina A&T 86-80 to capture the MEAC regular season title. Fourth title in the last seven years. For the Eagles, time to celebrate and cut down some nets. @NCCUAthletics @NCCU_MBB #NCCU #ABC11 pic.twitter.com/syKg1rkN0h— ABC11Charlie Mickens (@GameDayCharlie) March 6, 2020
It was fitting that Blount threw down the statement dunk that ended the suspense in the final minute. He's been the best Eagle this season and will likely be crowned the MEAC Player of the Year.
A revenge win over your archrival to clinch a regular-season title? That's pretty great. This group though has bigger plans. 3 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament has heightened expectations. As sweet as it is to celebrate Thursday night, they know the real prize awaits next week in Norfolk.