MEAC title up for grabs in Winston-Salem
Winston-Salem, NC (Sports Network) - An automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is on the line this afternoon at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as the Norfolk State Spartans clash with the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman in the title game of the 41st-annual Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament.
Neither one of these teams has ever won the championship in this league and both programs entered this year's tournament with a losing record in the event.
The Wildcats, who had never even made it to the title game in the MEAC Tournament, made it happen on Friday night as the team dismissed Hampton by a score of 81-72. During the triumph, Bethune-Cookman placed six players in double figures, another first for the school after the fourth seed had defeated South Carolina State in the opening round on Tuesday night and North Carolina State Central on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
As for the second-seeded Spartans, their road to the championship round began with a 71-61 victory over Howard in the quarterfinals on Wednesday and continued with a 58-46 triumph over upset-minded 11th-seeded Florida A&M yesterday. With those wins Norfolk State is now 13-12 in this tourney overall.
Norfolk State won the most recent meeting between the teams on Feb. 25 by a score of 75-72 and now holds a 14-10 edge in the series all-time.
The meeting with the Pirates experienced a 28-point swing and luckily Bethune- Cookman was on the right side of that action after 40 minutes of play as six players scored in double figures to pace the Wildcats. Adrien Coleman led the way with 16 points, Javoris Bryant added 15 and nine rebounds, while reserve Ricky Johnson chipped in 12 points in 21 minutes. Not to be ignored were Kevin Dukes and Paul Scotland who tallied 11 points apiece and Garrius Holloman with 10 points as the team shot 49.0 percent from the field and 8-of-16 behind the three-point line. The scoring burst for the Wildcats yesterday was rather unusual, given that the team is averaging just 64.9 ppg. Nevertheless, you can expect to see Dukes and Coleman among the leading scorers again this afternoon since they lead the program with 11.6 and 11.5 ppg, respectively.
More than anything else, it was the defense by the Spartans that put them over the top against Florida A&M yesterday as the Rattlers were forced into 19 turnovers and shot just 34.0 percent from the floor and 5-of-14 behind the three-point line in the 12-point decision. Leading the way for NSU was Kyle O'Quinn who delivered 13 points and eight rebounds, adding a couple of assists and a pair of blocked shots to his stat line. He was followed by Rob Johnson and Quasim Pugh, who came off the bench to offer up 12 and 10 points, respectively. The team survived just 39.6 percent accuracy from the floor, 3- of-11 on the perimeter and 13-of-20 shooting at the charity stripe. Shooting 58.6 percent from the floor on the season, O'Quinn is the leader in both scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (10.5 rpg) for the Spartans, not to mention one of the top shot-blockers in the nation with 90 rejections in 33 starts. Chris McEachin (12.9 ppg) and Pendarvis Williams (11.7 ppg) also contribute significant numbers at the offensive end of the floor.
03/10 10:50:41 ET