Notebook: Loss of chancellor inspires NC Central in victory over Missouri

North Carolina Central’s chancellor lost her battle with kidney cancer on Saturday, which has inspired the Eagles to play in her memory.
Sophomore guard Cullen VanLeer, 33, jumps up for a shot during the second half of the home game facing North Carolina Central.

Missouri men’s basketball fell to 3-3 Monday with a 62-52 loss to North Carolina Central at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers shot 25 percent from the floor, their lowest percentage at Mizzou Arena.

Here are some notes from the game:

North Carolina Central played for late chancellor

Eagles coach LeVelle Moton struggled to hold back tears during his postgame press conference when he began to talk about Debra Saunders-White, North Carolina Central’s late chancellor.

Saunders-White died on Saturday after a battle with kidney cancer, and it struck Moton and the Eagles hard.

“She was the best chancellor on the planet…the best person on the planet,” Moton said. “She was really a strong supporter of our basketball team and probably our biggest cheerleader.”

North Carolina Central has not been back home since Saunders-White’s death, and Moton said this has taken a toll on his team. Her memory inspired the Eagles to keep playing and ultimately attain a road victory in the process.

“She was a fighter, and I knew she would want us to fight for her,” Moton said.

Eagles turned ‘almosts’ into a victory

North Carolina Central came close to defeating undefeated Ohio State in mid-November but lost by six. But as Moton sees it, the word ‘almost’ “ only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

“I don’t know who invented the word almost,” Moton said. “I don’t know what year it was invented, but that person was probably a loser because it doesn’t matter.”

The Eagles turned moral victories into a road victory over a school in a major conference on Monday.

What would seem like a surprise to many was not for an Eagles team that almost topped the Buckeyes not long ago.

“I know you guys are probably surprised, but for the guys in our locker room, there really is no celebrating,” Moton said.

Moton said some players gave each other high-fives, but that was the extent of celebratory acts. North Carolina Central wasn’t shocked by the result, and neither was Missouri coach Kim Anderson.

“When I watched them play Saturday night, I knew this would be a really, really tough game for us just because of their experience,” Anderson said.

Combine the Eagles’ senior-heavy roster with a bad game from the floor for the Tigers, and a loss became more and more realistic for Missouri as the game went on.

“I'm not sure I have ever seen something like I just saw," Anderson said of his team’s shooting performance.

Walton disappeared after recent success

Sophomore K.J. Walton completed an impressive disappearing act on Monday.

Following performances of 20 and 19 points in Missouri’s past two games, Walton failed to score any field goals. He went 0-7 from the floor and his only contribution came from a free throw.

Anderson said it was only so long before other teams realized the threat that Walton, Missouri’s sixth man, can provide.

“He did a great job [in those two games], but other teams have video,” Anderson said.

Anderson said North Carolina Central did a good job of limiting Walton’s clean looks when attacking the basket. Anderson isn’t worried about Walton long-term, though.

“He’ll come back,” Anderson said. “He has got to develop balance in his game.”

Edited by Theo DeRosa | tderosa@themaneater.com

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