Longwood men’s basketball struggles on the road, ends streak

Published 10:52 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2023

All good things must come to an end. Unfortunately for Longwood men’s basketball, the team’s 12-game winning streak ended on Wednesday at North Carolina Central.

N.C. Central (7-7) had four players score in double figures, and a huge second half from Ja’Darius Harris helped lift the Eagles to a 79-70 win over the Lancers (12-2).

Harris poured in 16 of his game-high 21 points in the final 20 minutes, and he added a career best 10 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double. He was a big part of why N.C. Central shot better than 50 percent from the floor in the second half.

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He had help though, as Fred Cleveland added 16 points, Devin Gordon chipped in 14 and Po’Boigh King had 10. The quartet helped N.C. Central improve to 34-2 at home in non-conference games in the  McDougald-McLendon Arena in the past seven years.

Longwood battled behind 20 points and nine rebounds from Johnathan Massie. Despite only shooting 3-20 from three, the Lancers had chances thanks to 15 offensive rebounds in a game where they won the rebounding battle 39-26.

However, N.C. Central shot a season-best 31-36 from the foul line, including a flurry of free throws late that sealed the deal. Clevelend went 10-12 from the stripe for the Eagles.

It was a game that saw Longwood take an early lead amidst a defensive struggle in the first half. Longwood’s defense held N.C. Central to .346 shooting (9-26) in the opening 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Massie led Longwood on repeated rim attacks. He had 11 of his 20 points in the first half, and the Lancers led 35-30 at the break.

After halftime, the game opened up a bit more, and Harris got going for N.C. Central. He scored seven points amid a 13-0 run that turned a 47-41 Longwood lead into a 54-47 N.C. Central lead.

Michael Christmas hit a runner to stem the tide, and he helped Longwood creep back into the game. The graduate student scored 10 of his 12 points after halftime, and he tied the game at 56 all with two foul shots with 7:35 left.

He beat the shot clock a few possessions later for a 60-58 lead, but Harris ripped off five straight points for N.C. Central to retake the lead. Cleveland hit a big stepback three for a 67-60 lead that capped the run with 2:49 to play.

The Lancers trimmed the lead to four in the final minute, but N.C. Central was nearly perfect from the line down the stretch to close the game out.

Next for Longwood men’s basketball team?

Longwood takes a break for the holidays before returning to action on Saturday, December 30. The Lancers head to Dayton, and tip is scheduled for 2 p.m. The game will air on ESPN+ and on the radio on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.