Courtesy of North Carolina Central Athletics
Johnson C. Smith 0-0,0-0 CIAA
N.C. Central 1-0,0-0 MEAC
|Johnson C. Smith||15||12||17||12||56|
DURHAM, N.C. – Sophomore Morgan Callahanscored 14 points and both junior Blessing Okoh and freshman Jerni Kiaku poured in 13 points to lead the North Carolina Central University women’s basketball team to a 69-56 win in its home and season opener on Monday evening inside McDougald-McLendon Arena.
Callahan played nearly 37 minutes as she filled up the box score with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. Okoh tallied a double-double in her NCCU debut with 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Kiaku swished a trio of 3-pointers on the way to 13 points in her first collegiate contest.
The Eagles start 1-0 for the third time under the direction of sixth-year head coach Trisha Stafford-Odom. NCCU (1-0) shot 43.8-percent from the field and controlled the glass with a 43-34 rebounding advantage.
The Golden Bulls, who are a former conference rival of the Eagles when NCCU was in the CIAA, provided a stern test that included holding a brief second-half lead in the third quarter. Johnson C. Smith only trailed by two possessions, 55-49, with seven minutes to play before another newcomer helped the Eagles fly away to the victory.
Sophomore forward Sydney Avoletta made three consecutive plays in a 45-second window to stretch NCCU’s lead to double digits. Avoletta sank two consecutive shots in the paint on nice inbound passes from Okoh and had a block in-between those made baskets. Avoletta finished with six points, three rebounds and three blocks and the Eagles maintained a more comfortable cushion for the final six minutes.
NCCU led for most of the first half, but the Eagles could not construct a lead more than seven points as they missed nine of their 15 free throw attempts (40%) and committed 16 of their 22 turnovers before the midway break. Callahan had 10 points, four rebounds, three steals and three assists by halftime to help NCCU take a 31-27 edge into the locker room.
Sophomore Tyliah Burns scored a game-high 22 points for the Golden Bulls, including nine points in the third quarter to help JCSU rally and take a four-point lead in that frame. However, NCCU held the visitors to just one made field goal over the final five minutes of the third quarter to regain the lead for good.
Kiaku made all three of her trifectas in the second half and scored 11 of her 13 points after the intermission, which included scoring five points during NCCU’s 12-3 run to close out the third quarter.
All nine active players score for the maroon and gray, including six points apiece by junior Kimeira Burksand sophomore Nia Ford.
NC Central will try and improve to 2-0 for the first time to start a season under Stafford-Odom when the Eagles next travel to Miami, Florida, to play FIU on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
For more information on NCCU Athletics, visit NCCUEaglePride.com, or download the NCCU Eagles Athletics app.
ext Game: at FIU 11/9/2022 | 7:00 PM