As Selection Sunday looms, the automatic bid from the MEAC has been punched.
It’s the Norfolk State Spartans heading to the big dance. Norfolk State clinched the berth with a 71-63 win over Morgan State in the MEAC Championship on Saturday.
While Norfolk State won, this win was very different from the Thursday’s quarterfinal win over North Carolina Central. In that one, Norfolk State came out hot and went on a few big runs throughout the game.
The win marks the first MEAC Tournament title since 2012 for Norfolk State. That was also the last time that the Spartans reached the NCAA Tournament.
“Kudos to those guys (Norfolk State players), for working hard, for enduring a pandemic to even get to this point, the championship game, let alone win one,” Spartans’ head coach Robert Jones said. “For me, it was a lot of emotion trying to get this elusive championship. For me, it’s like finally checking all the boxes.”
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As a result of North Carolina A&T being out of the tournament due to COVID-19, Norfolk State got a semifinal round bye. Morgan State defeated Coppin State on Friday night.
“I can’t speak for Norfolk State and I’m not going to say the day off helped or hurt,” Morgan State head coach Kevin Broadus said. “I’m not going to discredit them; they played a hell of a ball game. We just couldn’t get over the hump. For us, it was good to play three games in a row because we had been off for two weeks and getting our rhythm back was key.”
Spartans’ senior and Joe Bryant Jr. had 47 points over the two Norfolk State wins in the MEAC Tournament and was named the tournament MVP.
Despite the conference championship, many brackets still have Norfolk State playing in one of the four play-in games.
“Play-in game or not, it’s the first round,” Jones said. “That’s the first round of the tournament; you still get the same unit; who cares honestly? Whoever you play, you are going to play an opponent that looks just like you, therefore you can beat them and get to stay longer, and get another unit. Now, the school is happy they get $3 million or whatever it is.”
Norfolk State Stats:
Joe Bryant Jr.: 17 points, four rebounds, assist
Devante Carter: 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists
Kashuan Hicks: 14 points, seven rebounds, assist
TEAM: 42% field goals, 82% free throws, 24 points off turnovers, 32:38 lead time
Morgan State Stats:
De’Torrion Ware: 16 points, five rebounds
Trevor Moore: nine points, two rebounds, two assists
Lagio Grantsaan: 13 points, eight rebounds
TEAM: 39% field goals, 18 turnovers, 18% 3-pointers
Norfolk State now will most likely play in a play-in game on Thursday. That game is currently projected to be against Northeastern Conference champions Mt. Saint Mary’s, who are 12-10.