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Lut Williams
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The rubber match and regular season finale between rivals North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central Thursday for the MEAC regular season title and top seed for next week’s tournament didn’t go as their earlier game did. In that Feb. 17 meeting in Greensboro, NC A&T jumped out to a 40-20 halftime lead and cruised to a 77-60 win.MBBteamchamps byDougBurt 2000x1125NCCU Sports Photo

This time, NCCU fell behind early but charged back to lead 40-39 at the break and pulled away late in the second half to down the Aggies, 86-80 to grab the top seed for the March 10-14 conference tournament in Norfolk, Va.

The Eagles (17-13, 13-3) and Aggies (16-15, 12-4) came in with identical 12-3 conference records. After this result, NCCU will be seeded first with NC A&T second. Both will play in Wednesday’s tournament quarterfinal round at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively. The regular season title also earns NCCU an automatic bid to the postseason NIT if the Eagles don’t win the MEAC tournament title.

A&T built a 27-14 lead midway through the first half but the Eagles fought back, outscoring the Aggies 24-9 over the last half of the period taking a 38-36 lead on a basket in the lane by NCCU’s Jibri Blount with less than a minute left in the half.

Kam Langley scored on an old fashioned 3-point point play to put A&T up 39-38 before back-up point guard Mike Melvin got his only points of the half on a scoop in the lane with :12 seconds left to send Eagles into the break with a 40-39 lead.

The back-and-forth second half saw A&T lead by seven at 58-51 before the teams entered the final nine minutes with A&T up 62-61. The Eagles took their first lead since early in the period at 63-62 when Jordan Perkins hit a runner in the lane with 8:32 to play. They went up for good when Blount dunked off a feed from Perkins and was fouled by Ronald Jackson. He converted the free throw at the 6:33 mark to put NCCU up 66-65.

The Eagles got great contributions down the stretch from C. J. Keyser, who tallied 13 of his team-high 20 points in the final eight minutes. Blount had 11 of his 19 points in the second half. NCCU took its largest lead at 86-77 in the final minute.

Nicolas Fennell also had 19 points, 15 in the first half. Blount led the Eagles’ effort off the boards with 12 rebounds.

The Aggies were led by 19 points from Tyler Maye, who started for injured swingman Kwe Parker. Point guard Kam Langley finished with 18 points and handed out 12 assists while Tyrone Lyons scored 15 points including four 3-pointers. Three Aggies fouled out trying to contain the Eagles down low, R. Jackson, Andre Jackson and Devin Haygood.



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