Norfolk State defeats North Carolina Central in MEAC quarterfinals
The Spartans got a huge performance from junior Joe Bryant Jr., who scored a career-high 30 points while making 7-of-10 from 3-point range. They finished with 14 3-pointers on the night and held the Eagles to just 32 percent shooting. NSU improved to 15-7 overall.
As a result of North Carolina A&T having to pull out of the MEAC Tournament due to a positive COVID test in their program, NSU automatically advances to Saturday’s final. The Spartans will play the winner of Friday’s Morgan State-Coppin State semifinal game on Saturday at 1 p.m. live on ESPNU. NSU will make its fifth ever appearance in the tournament final and will be aiming for its second MEAC title in program history.
Bryant sank a career-high seven treys, falling just short of the school record of eight. Senior Devante Carter nearly came away with a triple double, tallying 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for his third double-double of the year. The duo led NSU to its biggest MEAC tournament win ever, and of course it started with the Spartans holding the Eagles scoreless for more than six minutes.
“When Joe is on like that, we don’t feel that there’s anyone in the league who can stop him,” said head coach Robert Jones. “Our game plan was to contain (C.J.) Keyser and (Deven) Palmer, and even though they made some shots late, we feel we were able to execute that game plan tonight.”
NSU’s 17-0 lead to start the game was helped by Bryant hitting a couple of 3-pointers early on as NCCU had to call timeout before the first media timeout. It was a 20-point advantage when junior Jalen Hawkins sank a left-wing 3-pointer, and NSU was up by as much as 24 at the 7:47 mark when sophomore Nyzaiah Chambers made a pair from the free throw line for a 30-6 score.
But a 16-6 run by the Eagles got the deficit down to 14. The Eagles closed it to 12 and then 11 right before the halftime buzzer on two different 3-pointers. NSU went into the locker room with a 44-33 lead.
Bryant then poured it on in the second half, scoring 18 points after the break. He tallied 11 straight points for the Spartans at one point as they once again went back up by 20. Hawkins and Bryant hit two more 3-pointers to make it a 28-point game, 66-38, with less than 10 minutes to go. He then made his last trey of the game with five and a half minutes on the clock, and NSU sank three more shots from deep late in the game to finish with the fourth-most makes in school history.
Three free throws from sophomore Daryl Anderson gave NSU its biggest lead of the contest at 30 points with a minute remaining.
Senior Kashaun Hicks also scored in double figures with 13, all in the first half. NSU finished +8 on the glass and shot 45 percent overall. The team also outscored NCCU 23-4 in second-chance points and 17-6 in points off turnovers.
The Eagles, who saw their season come to a close at 5-9, were led by Keyser with 19 points and Palmer with 14 points and seven boards.