PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — Conference play is in full swing in the MEAC, and it’s been a surprising first three weeks to say the least.
After being picked ninth and 13th in the preseason polls, respectively, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats and North Carolina A&T Aggies enter the new week atop the conference standings at 5-0. Both have winning streaks of at least five games, and have shown no signs of slowing down.
Nipping at their heels is a team that knows what it takes to win the conference title. Last year’s champion, the North Carolina Central Eagles, enter Monday night’s match-up with the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks at 4-1 in conference play. The Eagles will look to pick up another win and keep pace with the Wildcats and Aggies atop the standings.
As for the Hawks, they are looking to put an end to their losing streak and play the role of spoiler in the MEAC. At 1-5 in conference play, Eastern Shore comes into the day in 12th spot in the 13-team league. It’s the second of three straight home games for the Hawks, and they’ll be looking to give their fans something to cheer about.
Here’s what you need to know in advance of Monday’s tilt between the Eagles and Hawks.
Last Time Out
Entering their meeting with the Howard Bison on Saturday, the Eagles were looking to extend their six game winning streak. They came into the day with a perfect 4-0 record in conference play, and were looking to make it a three-way tie atop the standings. The game went to overtime, and the Bison came away with the 84-78 win on their home floor to upset the Eagles.
The loss was the Eagles’ first defeat in the 2018 calendar year, and it ended their six game winning streak.
Raasean Davis led the Eagles with 19 points, on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor, while also adding nine rebounds and three blocks. Reginald Gardner Jr. had 17 points of his own, while Larry McKnight Jr. came off the bench to score 10 points in the loss.
After a two game road swing, the Hawks were back on their home floor in their last outing to kick off a three game home stand inside the Hytche Athletic Center. Up first was a date with the North Carolina A&T Aggies, who were undefeated in MEAC play at 4-0. It was a tight affair right down to the final horn, but the Aggies extended their winning streak with a 66-64 win over the Hawks.
The loss was the fourth straight for Maryland Eastern Shore, and three of those losses were by five points or less.
Forward Tyler Jones led the way for the Hawks, scoring a game-high 18 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks. He picked up just one foul, which was a huge boost for Eastern Shore. Logan McIntosh came off the bench to record nine points, six rebounds, and 11 assists, while Ahmad Frost added 15 points of his own in the loss.
The last time that the Eagles and Hawks met was last season in the semi-finals of the MEAC Tournament in March. After sweeping the regular season series, North Carolina Central was looking to make it a perfect 3-0 season against Eastern Shore. On the day, the Eagles had five players score in double figures, and they cruised to the 77-49 victory to punch their ticket to the MEAC Tournament finals.
Despite shooting just 7-of-20 from the field, Patrick Cole finished the day with a game high 21 points in the Eagles’ win. He also recorded seven rebounds, six assists, and five steals to stuff the stat sheet. Kyle Benton had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Pablo Rivas came off the bench to record 10 points and six rebounds.
Bakari Copeland led the Hawks with 15 points and three rebounds, and he was the only player for Eastern Shore to score in double figures. Jones had eight points and six rebounds off the bench, while Thomas Rivera added seven points of his own. As a team, the Hawks shot just 29.8% (17-of-57) from the field.
Players to Watch
North Carolina Central
– 15.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 1.0 bpg; 69.3% FG in 19 games.
– Davis is averaging a double-double over his last two games (18.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg).
– One of seven players listed at 6’6” or taller for the Eagles (Hawks have just four).
– 11.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.9 apg; 51.4% FG, 40.4% 3PT in 17 games.
– Rivas has three double-digit scoring games over his last four appearances after missing two games.
– He went for 23 points and 14 rebounds (both season highs) against Coppin State on 1/13.
Maryland Eastern Shore
– 12.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg; 38.2% FG, 34.1% 3PT in 21 games.
– Frost is the team’s leading scorer as a sophomore, and one of four players averaging double digit points per game.
– He went for a career-high 33 points and six rebounds against Hampton on 1/6.
– 11.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.1 spg; 38.4% FG in 18 games.
– McIntosh has 10 double digit scoring games since returning from a three game hiatus due to an ankle injury suffered in the first game of the season.
– He is one of just two seniors on the active roster for the Hawks in 2017-18.
Monday pits two teams against each other that are trending in opposite directions.
On one side of the ball, you have an Eagles team who is looking to get back to their winning ways after having their winning streak snapped in their previous outing. On the flip side, you have a Hawks team who has lost four straight and are at the bottom of the MEAC standings.
North Carolina Central has the Hawks’ number, and all signs point to another win for the Eagles on Monday night. If the Hawks are able to get big performances from the likes of Frost and McIntosh, and regain their high scoring offense from the start of conference play, then there’s no reason why Maryland Eastern Shore can’t come away with the win.
However, North Carolina Central has too many weapons, and will overpower the Hawks in a closer-than-expected game on Monday night in Princess Anne, MD.
North Carolina Central – 70
Maryland Eastern Shore – 60
– T. Bennett