NBA Rookie of the Year race down to two

Justin Norris | Staff Writer

The rookie class that has headlined the 2017-18 NBA season is one of the deepest classes in recent memory. Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Kyle Kuzma, Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr. and others have all given their respective franchises hope about being potential cornerstones for years to come.

Despite the number of rookies having strong inaugural seasons, the race for the Rookie of the Year award has virtually been cut down to two. These men are Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.

These two rookies have been the catalysts behind their teams reaching the playoffs in dominating fashion. After Gordon Hayward’s departure in free agency last summer, the Jazz were not expected to compete for a playoff spot in the highly competitive Western Conference. However, Mitchell stepped into Hayward’s role on offense and led the Jazz in scoring at 20.5 points per game. A rookie has not led a playoff team in scoring since 2004, when Carmelo Anthony accomplished that feat. Mitchell’s emergence as the go-to option for Utah inspired its turnaround from a non-contender to a team that nobody wants to play in the playoffs.

Ben Simmons has enjoyed one of the best all-around seasons the NBA has seen from a rookie in a long time. Simmons’ averages of 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game put him in the same class as his close friend and mentor LeBron James. Like James, Simmons has been blessed with the physique of a power forward with the speed and ball skills of a point guard, making him a matchup nightmare for opponents. ESPN writer Kevin Pelton went as far as to pose the question of “whether there has ever been a rookie — including LeBron James — as versatile as Simmons.”

Despite having an almost non-existent jump shot, he has helped lead the 76ers to the third seed in the Eastern Conference by using his overwhelming size and athleticism to create easy shots for himself and his teammates. On the defensive side of the ball, Simmons is constantly wreaking havoc, which often results in turnovers for the opposing team. Despite Joel Embiid being sidelined with a facial fracture, Simmons and the 76ers remained one of the hottest teams in the NBA by riding a 16-game winning streak into the playoffs.

The drama around the two primary candidates has increased over the past week. Mitchell sparked the debate by wearing a black hoodie with the definition of the word “rookie” on it. The definition read “an athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team.” Mitchell’s argument is that because Simmons sat out his first season with a broken right foot last year, so he should not win Rookie of the Year.

On the opposite side, Simmons did not play at all last season, so he is still technically eligible for the award. This uncommon situation has precedent. In 2011, Blake Griffin unanimously won Rookie of the Year over John Wall despite being drafted in 2009 because he sat out the entire 2010 season with a broken kneecap.

With that being said, both rookies have had outstanding rookie seasons and exceeded even their loftiest expectations. In most seasons, Mitchell would have run away with the award. However, Simmons’ versatility and impact on both sides of the floor as a 6 foot 10 full time point guard is too much to ignore.

 

Have the Warriors lost their sauce without Curry?

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

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Flickr User Roco

It’s been a very interesting year for the reigning NBA champs.

For much of the season, the Golden State Warriors seemed sluggish, almost as if they could not care less about the regular season. Then injuries began to pile up. The team’s big four all sat out multiple games at once.

In a sense, this didn’t really matter, as NBA analysts all agreed that if the team could be ready come playoff time, they’d have nothing to worry about. On March 23, all of that changed. Steph Curry made his return from his ankle sprain, and late in the third quarter, Javale McGee awkwardly fell into Curry’s right knee. Curry immediately limped away, grimacing in pain. After a couple of days, the team diagnosed their starting guard with a grade 2 MCL sprain, an injury that could keep him out three to four weeks.

What Curry brings to the floor for his team is incomparable. He’s able to spread out the opposition’s defense to not only create opportunities for himself but his teammates, too. Still, without their main man, the Warriors were still in good shape. Having Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is as good as a trio as anyone’s — at least, that’s what was thought. Since Curry went out again, the team has been a lackluster 4-6. Three of those four wins came against the bottom-feeders of the league.

Their one win that helped keep fans’ hopes alive was against a rival Oklahoma City Thunder team, an opponent that was constructed to tear down the Warriors. In their first two meetings, it looked like the Thunder could do it. OKC crushed Golden State with an average margin of victory of 18.5 points. In the third meeting, the Warriors used a third quarter run to bully their way to a win.

However, even with that win on their resume, things didn’t change. They continued to lose to teams that they shouldn’t such as the Pacers by 20, and even a 40-point beat-down by the Utah Jazz.

To many, it just doesn’t add up. The Warriors have the second-best player in the league, one of the best defenders and a top-two shooter. Along with this, the Warriors have found a valuable piece in Quinn Cook, who has stepped up in a tremendous fashion in Curry’s absence.

Last year, similar circumstances hit. Durant went out with an injury to his leg, but the exact opposite happened. Golden State used it as motivation to go on its longest winning streak of the season. So why hasn’t the same thing happened this year?

Stephen A. Smith and other NBA anaylsts have called out Durant to show up and take the lead.

“If [you’re] KD, nobody else should be a problem outside of Houston,” Smith said on ESPN.

It’s not just the reporters, though. Fans agree, too.

Hamptonian Cameron Austin said, “KD can’t be the best player in the world if he can’t carry his team. LeBron has been doing it for years now.”

Austin continued, “I think this all but solidifies the argument of who the best player in the world is.”

What’s crazy is, things have seemed to work out for Golden State. Out of all the teams they could have played in the first round, they ended up facing the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs, a team they can easily sweep. You can’t ever count out any team coached by Gregg Popovich, but at the end of the day, the Warriors are the overwhelming favorite.

A four-game sweep would mean a lot to the Bay area team. They wouldn’t just build momentum, they’d also get much needed rest before facing either the Pelicans or Trail Blazers, two noteworthy opponents.

Either way, they’ll most likely need Curry for the semifinals, and definitely for the conference finals. The Rockets look to be unstoppable, and there is absolutely no way the Warriors can take out Houston without their most important player.

So the question that has arisen now is: How long can the Warriors survive without Curry?

Cinderella takes the pumpkin all the way to the Final Four

Nazim Trammell-Wells | Contributing Writer

Cinderella made herself known this year in a dominating fashion.

Each year, the NCAA Tournament produces a story that cannot be made up — a story that drives college basketball fans absolutely mad, which got the tournament coined March Madness.

This year’s Cinderella story starred Loyola-Chicago.

Loyola-Chicago came into the first round as an 11 seed matched up against ACC-vetted, No. 6 seed Miami, who featured many top recruits. The game was an absolute nail-biter, where both teams were trading tough baskets the entire game. In the end, Loyola-Chicago came out victorious with a buzzer-beater 3-pointer from senior guard Donte Ingram.

After upsetting Miami, many thought Loyola was good, but to foresee the Ramblers going farther in the tournament was a mere fluke. Instead, more people looked at this as a mishap on Miami’s part and a team that will surely be sent home the next round.

The Ramblers had something different in mind as they took No. 3 seed Tennessee to the wire, winning 63-62 due to a late jumper from Clayton Custer.

Now garnering attention from about every team in the tournament, Loyola took on fellow Cinderella story Nevada, whom they defeated in exhilarating fashion 69-68 after a 3-pointer from Custer.

After dominating Kansas State 78-62, Loyola accomplished what many thought was the impossible a few weeks ago, making the Final Four.

The fact that out of the nation’s 68 best teams, Loyola-Chicago was one of the best four is something that was unfathomable. Unfortunately, their dreams were crushed by Michigan, a team that came as a 3 seed but had low expectations.

Michigan handled Loyola-Chicago 69-57. Wolverines big man Mo Wagner racked up 24 points and 15 rebounds, which was key as he was able to consistently crash the board to give his team second-chance points. Loyola put up a fight that many did not predict, and it served as this year’s bracket buster.

The Ramblers finished off a great season in which they earned themselves more recognition on the national level after being a team with a losing record a few years ago.

A peek at top NBA Draft prospects

Roderick McLean | Staff Writer

A peek at top NBA Draft prospects

With the NCAA Tournament over, it’s time to focus on the next step for a select few college basketball players: the NBA Draft. There are a large number of bright NBA prospects. Here are players who could have a big impact.

DeAndre Ayton

Arizona freshman center DeAndre Ayton is considered by many to be the best player in this year’s class. Ayton, a 7-0 big man, weighs 260 pounds. For his size, the former Arizona center has great coordination and runs the floor well.

The player he is most often compared to is David Robinson. However, a difference between the two is that Ayton has adapted to today’s style of play by being able to spot up on the floor, even the 3-point line.

His numbers in college were tremendous as Ayton averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. He is projected to be the first pick in the draft. The slot can go to a number of teams depending on the lottery, but there is no doubt that Ayton will have a significant impact wherever he goes.

Collin Sexton

Alabama freshman guard Collin Sexton is another big-time player. He was one of the most forceful guards in the country and plays with so much energy. Sexton is only 6-2 but is very physical and athletic. He’s great at absorbing contact and finishing at the rim.

Sexton has lightning speed, agility and ball handling, making him a great slasher. Not only does he slash well, but Sexton’s jump shot looks sure and very dangerous in the mid-range area. This season, he averaged 19.2 points, 3.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds. Sexton looks to be a top 10 pick and have the same effect in the NBA that he had in college.

Trae Young

Oklahoma’s Trae Young is often compared to Stephen Curry and Mike Bibby. During the first part of his freshman campaign, Young nearly averaged 30 points and nine assists per game his first 10 games. He’s just the fourth high-major freshman guard in seven years to record a usage rate higher than 30 percent.

Young has shown that he can hit the NBA 3 with his seemingly limitless range.  He has a quick, compact release that doesn’t have any wasted motions. This has enabled Young to get his shot off extremely fast, even through tight spaces.

The Sooner has been most useful in a pick-and-roll style of play as it forces defenders to choose to defend him or the roller. One of the things scouts say Young needs to work on is getting stronger. Standing at just 6-2 and weighing in at 181 pounds, Young is relatively small.

In the NBA, this will be a concern due to so many players being absurdly athletic. Young averaged 27.4 points and 8.8 assists per game this season, which were remarkable numbers.

Michael Porter Jr.

Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. had a short season due to a back surgery. In the two games he played when he came back, Porter looked stiff and out of shape.

He has fantastic size as a wing forward at 6-10 with a 7-0 wingspan. He has an astounding jump shot to go along with his great rebounding ability. He tends to only rely on his shooting against a defensive half court and also doesn’t create a lot of off-the-dribble shots. His pull-up game is good, but can be predictable.

 

Super Bowl or bust in Los Angeles?

Harrington Gardiner | Contributing Writer

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams were a franchise in disarray. They were suffering with a 4-12 record under head coach Jeff Fisher. Their first round draft pick Jared Goff had not played most of the season, and once he actually got playing time, he looked like a disappointment.

Another downside was the underwhelming performance of running back Todd Gurley, who finished 27th in rushing after finishing in the top five in 2015. Things weren’t looking good in L.A.

However, the Rams organization looked to turn things around when it decided to hire former Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay.  The hiring made McVay the youngest head coach in NFL history, but that youth didn’t stop McVay from changing this organization for the better.

McVay brought in receiving threats for Goff such as Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. He also hired defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has had a great impact on defenses in the NFL, including the Denver Broncos defense that won the Super Bowl in the 2015 season.

Revitalizing the offensive line was another key to getting things on the right track. The Rams made it their mission to do so by bringing in one of the league’s best offensive tackles in Andrew Whitworth.

McVay wanted to focus on building around the two gems he had on offense — Jared Goff and Todd Gurley — and it paid off in the 2017 season. During McVay’s first year as head coach, he helped the Rams get to an 11-5 record and finished with an NFC West first place crown.

With such a turn around after the team had less than five wins a season before, McVay won NFL coach of the year and made the Rams a team that will be feared for years to come.

Despite the positivity that surrounded the Rams in 2017, they ended their season in sour defeat after losing a home wild card game to the Atlanta Falcons. After the defeat, they realized that there were holes that needed to be filled.

The first adjustment was adding to the coaching staff former UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, who will now serve as Rams offensive coordinator. The Rams did have some key departures this offseason, which included inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and receiver Sammy Watkins, but they made up for it with the acquisitions they made. The Rams traded for former Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, who is one of the league’s best corners.

Another great cornerback added to this team was Aqib Talib, and don’t forget about corner Sam Shields as well.  Just when Rams fans thought the team’s defense couldn’t get any better, they signed Ndamukong Suh, who is still one of the best defensive tackles. Suh will be playing next to Aaron Donald, who is considered the league’s top defensive tackle.

The combination of their front seven and secondary will make it extremely hard to get any offensive production going for opposing teams. With this vaunted Rams defense and an offense that finished in the top 10 and just added receiver Brandin Cooks from the Patriots, the Rams will be a force in 2018.

Of course, along the way, there will be challenges. With the moves that they made, their goal now is to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. The question is, can the Rams do it?

The talent on their roster most definitely says yes. The key for L.A. is just staying consistent and staying disciplined. This is a Super Bowl-or-bust season for L.A., and part of getting to the Super Bowl is to beat the team that won it all. Philly will be back and better than ever.

Not long ago, the Rams were a team facing obscurity. Now they’re on their pursuit for a Lombardi Trophy.

LeBron piles up the stats, but will a playoff foe make his numbers pointless?

Justin Norris | Staff Writer

LeBron James is having perhaps his most statistically dominant season in his transcendent 15-year career.

James is on pace to play in all 82 games for the first time in his career, and he is surpassing his lofty career averages in almost every major statistical category. King James is averaging 27.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game, while shooting 54.7 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from 3-point range and 73 percent from the free throw line. This is his highest scoring average since his first stint in Cleveland, and his highest rebound and assist averages ever.

In addition to these jaw-dropping numbers, James, at 33 years old, is leading the NBA in minutes per game, while serving as the only constant for a wildly inconsistent Cavaliers team that has seen even its head coach miss games, and has used 26 different starting lineups this season.

Earlier this season, James also became the youngest of seven players to reach the elusive 30,000-career-points milestone, and just eclipsed Michael Jordan’s record for most consecutive games with double figures in points, with 867. James’ level of play appears to be at an all-time high. It’s no wonder that he told reporters after recording his career best 14th triple-double of the season, “I’m like fine wine, I get better with age.”

Despite the greatness of James, the Cavaliers are not expected to win the NBA championship this season. A LeBron-led team has never finished below the second seed in the Eastern Conference in a season that he advanced to the NBA Finals. Yet, James told reporters earlier this season that “it doesn’t matter to me if I’m a sixth seed, or a 3 seed, or a 2 seed, 8 seed. If I come into your building for a Game 1, it will be very challenging.”

However, the road to James’ fourth championship and a second title for Cleveland, particularly through the Eastern Conference, is more arduous than it has been since his return to Cleveland before the 2014-15 season. The Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics should provide a legitimate test for James and the Cavaliers even before facing likely either the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.

The problem for the Cavaliers has never been about scoring points. Their issues start on the other side of the ball. They are the fifth in the league in points per game, but they also have the fifth-worst defense in the league.

The only possible way for the Cavaliers to win their second title in three seasons is to increase their lackluster regular-season effort and intensity levels defensively once the playoffs begin. This is something they have shown themselves incapable of doing for the past three years. In order to avoid postseason disappointment and beat the Raptors, Rockets or Warriors, the Cavaliers must be able to generate stops against the top 3 offenses in the NBA. If not, James could look to sign elsewhere when he becomes a free agent this summer.

Done in Washington, Cousins will take hikes with Vikes

Isaiah Spencer | Staff Writer

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Flickr User: Keith Allison

Former Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins signed a three-year, $84 million contract – fully guaranteed – with the Minnesota Vikings on March 15 to become the NFL’s highest-paid player, according to ESPN.

Cousins’ deal, which edged out San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s by $500,000, set the precedent for other quarterbacks to ask for fully guaranteed money.

Last season, the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game with Case Keenum leading them. Keenum signed with the Denver Broncos, the Arizona Cardinals opted for Sam Bradford and the New York Jets went with Teddy Bridgewater.

The Vikings have paved the way for Cousins to start immediately.

“We’d be here a long time if I was able to read off the grocery list of reasons why this is the right fit,” Cousins told NFL reporters. “For the sake of time, I’ll just say winning is what I said it’d be all about and it’s true. I came here because of a chance to win. I felt it was probably the best chance.”

Cousins, who played six seasons with Washington and started every game the past three seasons, still seeks his first playoff win.

“This is a lifetime deal,” Cousins said. “That’s the goal. … If everything goes as planned, we’ll be here a long, long time.”

Championship slips from the Lady Pirates’ hands

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

There has been a lot of drama between Hampton University and the MEAC of late. The Pirates’ announced leave has left a bad taste in the conference’s mouth. HU is headed for the Big South.

March 10, that was set aside. Instead, the drama was on the court.

The Lady Pirates entered the MEAC women’s basketball championship game in Norfolk having won seven contests in a row and were facing North Carolina A&T.

A month earlier, HU had handed the Aggies their only conference loss.

In the MEAC title game, the Aggies handed the Pirates a devastating defeat.

Jephany Brown scored a game-high 22 points, and Mikayla Sale made a tying layup with seven seconds left in regulation, but HU fell 72-65 in overtime.

It didn’t seem it would go that way at first, though. The Aggies began slowly, not scoring a point for the first five minutes. In the second quarter, Hampton led 21-12. But the Aggies closed out the half strong with a 10-2 run, ultimately leading to a much more manageable 29-23 deficit.

Things took a turn for the worst in the second half for Hampton. In the third quarter, the Lady Pirates only made one field goal in the entire 10 minutes of play. Other than that shot, all of the other points were free throws.

A&T was executing both on offense and defense. The Aggies were able to flip Hampton’s six turnovers into easy buckets along with getting key players such as Ashley Bates into foul trouble. The momentum of the game had clearly changed toward the Aggies, and they used it to outscore the Lady Pirates 19-8 in the third period.

It was now up to Hampton to redeem themselves for giving up their first-half lead, but things weren’t going smoothly. Every time the Lady Pirates inched closer toward the Aggies’ lead, A&T would create just enough separation to feel safe.

With less than 5 minutes to play, North Carolina A&T held a 10-point lead. Hampton wasn’t ready to give up easy. The Lady Pirates went on an 8-0 run, led by Brown and Sayle, to cut the deficit to 2.

The next few possessions were a free throw game. If A&T could manage to hit all of their shots at the charity stripe, they’d certainly win. If they couldn’t, Hampton had a chance.

Kala Green stood at the line and could have pushed the lead to 3 for A&T, but she went 1-for-2.

Sale knotted matters with a layup. The Lady Pirates stole the ball with six seconds left in regulation and were able to get a shot up just before the buzzer sounded.

Unfortunately, it did not fall. In overtime, the Lady Pirates and the Aggies appeared to be in a tug-of-war standstill. Each team hit clutch shots down the wire up until the one-minute mark.

This is where the Aggies began to separate themselves. In one possession A&T was able to grab three offensive rebounds off three missed shots which eventually led to a made jumper. A turnover on Hampton’s next possession forced the Lady Pirates to foul.

Green once again could ice the game at the line, but just like before, she went 1-of-2.

This time, though, the Aggies grabbed the offensive rebound and, soon after, the MEAC championship.

Hampton nearly gave coach David Six a seventh tourney title despite 24 turnovers.

The Lady Pirates ended the season 18-14 and the MEAC runner-up.

As they look toward next year, they will need players to step up and fill the void left by four seniors – Monnazjea Finney-Smith, Allina Starr, Brown and Sayle.

2018’s best quarterback prospects

Harrington Gardiner | Contributing Writer

It’s that time of year where franchises around the league analyze college football prospects to prepare for the future. We’re several weeks removed from pro days, and the nation’s top quarterbacks are getting non-stop attention.

With loads of talent on both offense and defense this year, the quarterback position seems to be the main focus of this year’s NFL Draft.

Each of the top five QBs projected to go in the first round have had tremendous success in college.

The collegiate accolades are great and all, but NFL scouts and general managers want to know which QB will take their team to a higher level.

It’ll be interesting to see the QB that comes off the board first on draft day.

Josh Allen – Wyoming

Allen has everything you want in today’s NFL QB. He’s got the stature, arm strength and the ability to lead an offense.

Allen has a cannon of an arm, and he also performed well at this year’s NFL Combine where he threw a deep ball nearly 70 yards downfield during a drill.

Despite his intangibles, people question whether he’s worth a shot so early in the draft due to the fact that he played at Wyoming, a small school with very little competition.

During his time at Wyoming, he also never had a completion rate of over 56 percent and was wildly inconsistent with his throws.

Allen has the skill set and athleticism to be a decent quarterback, but whether or not he’s an NFL starter is a question that is still running through the minds of NFL scouts.

Sam Darnold – Southern Cal

Darnold played at one of the most popular football schools in the country. With that being said, the competition level isn’t really a question; Darnold has played against some very tough teams during his time with the Trojans. He has decent size for an NFL QB and can read defenses well.

Another one of his strengths is that he’s confident under pressure. NFL teams would love to have a QB that can deliver great passes while under pressure in the pocket.

When it comes to weaknesses, Darnold turns the ball over way too much. A lot of these plays come from him trying to make something out of nothing, and most times, he ends up taking more hits than he should.

NFL executives call Darnold the most complete QB in the draft, but he has to limit fumbles and interceptions. If he can do that, then Darnold has the best makeup to be a good pro.

Josh Rosen – UCLA

Another PAC-12 standout is Rosen. This guy is also getting very high praise from scouts for his ability to stay in the pocket and deliver beautiful passes. He’s also extremely smart  and skilled in field mechanics.

However, Rosen is not very durable, his decision making is questionable and his arm strength is below average. Rosen had a tremendous upside and can make a wonderful first impression, but he has to work to develop a better skill set and become a starter for a team that needs a QB.

Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma

Heisman Trophy winner Mayfield had an outstanding year. He played in many big games during his time at Oklahoma and was one win away from playing in the national title game before losing to Georgia in the Rose Bowl.

Mayfield is probably the most competitive player in college football, and he’s also tough as nails. His teammates rally around him, and he brought tremendous energy to the Sooners.

Another strength of his is that for his size he is very athletic and he uses his mobility to buy time to make spectacular plays. Despite his strengths, scouts are hesitant with Mayfield because of his antics on and off the field.

He has run into trouble with the law before, and his competitiveness has led him to act unprofessionally in some instances.

Another question that teams have is about his footwork and tendency to throw off of his back foot way too often. Mayfield has had the most success out of every one of these quarterbacks, but NFL executives are still skeptical of him.

Lamar Jackson – Louisville

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner had many highlight reel plays. He used his versatility to get an edge over defenders, and many people compare him to Michael Vick. Jackson has the open-field instincts of an elite running back, and he is decent when throwing on the run.

Unfortunately, due to his size, he is more susceptible to getting hurt after big hits. These hits often come from his ability to get down field in an instant. NFL executives worry that with the speed of the NFL being tremendously different from college, the adjustment will be too large to make.

They’ve also seen that Jackson underthrows deep balls and has a high turnover total. No one’s doubting that he has the potential to be a dangerous dual-threat quarterback, but Jackson must develop into more of a pocket passer to be sufficient in the NFL

Teams adjust entirely too quickly for him to make the absolutely insane plays he made in college. So, if Jackson can get better with his accuracy and standing tall in the pocket while occasionally using his speed, he can be a great pro quarterback.

Hampton falls in MEAC title game, misses out on NCAA bid

Tyler Snead | Staff Writer

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sevenvenues.com

Malique Trent-Street scored 15 for top-seeded Hampton in the MEAC men’s basketball tournament title game, but the Pirates fell to sixth-seeded North Carolina Central 71-63 on March 10 in Norfolk.

The Eagles advanced to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Texas Southern 64-46 on March 14.

Hampton and N.C. Central both finished 19-16.

Earlier in the season, the Pirates stomped the Eagles by 16.

In the MEAC tourney, Hampton led 28-27 at the half.

The second half is when the tables turned. North Carolina Central was able to increase the pressure on defense, causing Hampton to miss a lot of shots and begin the half slowly. With the Pirates stumbling, the Eagles sprinted and grabbed an eight-point lead. Hampton was able to battle back a little past the 10-minute mark.

The Pirates, who were once down 10, fought to tie it 58-58.

Over the last five minutes, North Carolina Central’s defense held Hampton to five points to lock up the MEAC championship.

Kalin Fisher and Akim Mitchell added 11 points each for the Pirates, who will only lose three players to graduation.