Jeremy Ingram scored 29 points and N.C. Central used an 8-1 run to get some separation and held on to beat Morgan State 71-62 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship on Saturday night.
Karamo Jawara added 10 points for the Eagles (28-5), who won their 20th consecutive game and claimed the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth in only their third season at the Division I level.
Ian Chiles scored 26 to lead Morgan State (15-16), appearing in the championship for the sixth time in eight seasons under coach Todd Bozeman and seeking its fourth championship.
Anthony Hubbard added 12 points and Blake Bozeman 10 for the Bears.
The game was close throughout, but Ingram and Jawara each scored four points during the short run that finished with 9 minutes to go and the Eagles leading 50-43. Morgan State pulled to 55-52 with 4:31 to play, but Jordan Parks hit four straight free throws to rebuild the lead and the Eagles held on.
N.C. Central made 25 of 30 free throws after halftime.
N.C. Central, a former Division II power, finished 18-1 against MEAC competition this year and hasn't lost since Jan. 11 against Florida A&M. The championship game appearance was its first.
The game was knotted at 31 at halftime, and tied three more times — at 33, 39 and 42 — before Jawara's dunk sparked the 8-1 burst. Ingram added two free throws, Jawara hit two and Ingram hit two more. The Eagles hit just two field goals in the last 13 minutes, a shot-clock-beating 3-point heave by Reggie Groves with 4:45 to play, and Ingram's 17-footer with 1:57 left. That gave N.C. Central a 61-54 lead, and the Eagles' free throw shooting kept them ahead.
The Eagles made just six field goals in the second half, and the Bears made just nine.
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