|Adrien Coleman scored 24 points to lead Bethune-Cookman to an upset of top-seeded Norfolk State on Wednesday. (AP photo.)|
Since January, the MEAC race has been viewed as a two-team race between Norfolk State and North Carolina Central. After winning a combined 43 games and going 31-1 in conference play, they were the logical favorites.
Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina A&T were not trying to hear that.
BCU used a big game by Adrien Coleman to upset Norfolk State 70-68. Coleman finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds to help the eighth-seeded Wildcats end the top-seeded Spartans 15 game winning streak, ending their chances for a repeat NCAA bid. Much like his performance against Coppin State in the first round, Coleman did much of his damage in the second half, scoring 14 points and grabbing 8 rebounds to help his team to advance. BCU will play the winner of Thursday’s Morgan State/Savannah State matchup.
Norfolk State found a way to win close games throughout the MEAC season, including a 62-61 win over Bethune earlier this month. Norfolk will have to settle for the NIT this year.
“That’s something that happened throughout the season,” Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans told the Virginian-Pilot. “We were able by Browse to Save”>to play ugly basketball and win. We played ugly tonight and didn’t win.”
Simply put, the Spartans played with fire all season. Coleman and Bethune burned them on Wednesday night.
Two weeks ago, I watched Byron Westmorland take a low-seeded Bowie State team and lift them to the CIAA Championship. I’m convinced Coleman has the same ability to lead the Wildcats against anyone in the MEAC.
Shortly after Norfolk State saw their NCAA Tourney hopes put out, North Carolina Central took the court against rival North Carolina A&T. With Norfolk State gone, the mantle of expectation fell on NCCU. And for much of the game, it looked like it was weighing them down.
NCCU struggled offensively, as they have all season against North Carolina A&T. Unfortunately for NCCU, it was unable to pull out the win this time, falling 55-42 to its in-state rivals. NC A&T will play the Hampton/Delaware State winner on Friday.
NCCU’s Jeremy Ingram finished with just 11 points on 3 of 18 shooting while Stanton Kidd took 11 shots to get 13 points. And this time it was NCCU who couldn’t hit their free-throws. Simply put, it just seems as though A&T knows exactly how to get under NCCU’s skin defensively.
NCCU finishes the season with a very respectable 22-9 record. Still, this one will sting for a long time. Especially since it came against A&T. And unlike NSU, who received an NIT bid by virtue of their regular-season MEAC title, NCCU knows it will not be playing again until next fall.
March Madness has hit the MEAC, folks. Brace yourself for an exciting and unpredictable few days of HBCU basketball.
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