By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent
New Journal and Guider
The Norfolk State men’s basketball team won its first-ever MEAC basketball tournament crown on Saturday (Mar. 10) with a 73-70 victory over a feisty Bethune Cookman squad in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 from the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC.
NSU raced to an early lead in the contest, and were up by as many as 14 points in the second half. The game was tied twice and the lead changed four times. Bethune Cookman’s largest lead was by 3 points in the first half at the 18:32 mark in the contest. Norfolk State(25-9) used a 2-3 zone defense to keep Bethune Cookman (18-17) off balance for most of the contest. Norfolk State led 35-22 at halftime.
Norfolk State was powered by MEAC Player of the Year senior center Kyle O’Quinn, who scored 18 points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Spartan point guard Pendarvis Williams scored 17 points, while Rob Johnson chipped in 15 points. Bethune Cookman was led by Kevin Dukes who scored 18 points and Javoris Bryant who poured in 15 points in the losing effort. NSU’s team effort rebounding-NSU grabbed 37 rebounds compared to 30 for BCC-and accuracy at the free throw line- NSU scored 21 of 27 free throws or 77 percent while Bethune Cookman scored 12 of 17 free throws or 70 percent-enabled the Spartans to survive a last minute offensive flurry from Bethune Cookman, which saw the Wildcats rally to within 3 points with one minute left in the game. The Spartans managed to contain the Wildcats with their zone defense as the final seconds elapsed to win the 2012 MEAC basketball tournament. Players and fans celebrated on the floor as the Spartans were proclaimed the MEAC champions. With the win, NSU gains an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The New Journal and Guide interviewed NSU basketball coach Anthony Evans after the game. Evans, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Coach and has 2 years left on his contract at NSU, said, “I knew they going to make a run and that it wasn’t going to be a 20 point win. We have not played our best basketball yet.”
Coach Evans told the New Journal and Guide, “We are so happy to be doing this for our fans, the university, the community, and program. The tournament coming to Norfolk next year gives us a jump. We won one now, we can do it again at home.”
On Sunday (Mar. 11), the NCAA tournament selection show announced that the 15th seeded NSU will face Big 12 champion and No. 5 Missouri(30-4) on Friday(Mar. 16) in Omaha, Nebraska. This game marks NSU’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
In the women’s championship game, the Lady Pirates of Hampton University defeated the Lady Bison of Howard University 54-53 in a rematch of last year’s final to capture their third consecutive MEAC women’s basketball title. Jericka Jenkins led Hampton with 14 points and was named the women tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The NCAA announced Monday (Mar. 12) that HU will face No. 1 seeded Stanford on Saturday (Mar. 17) at the Ted Constant Center in Norfolk in a 1:30 p.m. contest.
For more information about the MEAC basketball tournament, please visit www.meachoops.com.