NORFOLK, VA – Top seed Norfolk State pulled away late to knock off fourth-seed Morgan State 72-63 to earn a repeat trip to the MEAC Tournament’s championship game.
The defending champion Spartans (24-6) will face the winner of Friday’s other semifinal. Third-seed NC Central met seventh-seed Coppin State in that game. The championship game is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.
The teams were close early
The teams, who split two games in the regular season, were tied at 28 at the half and at 49 midway through the second half. But Norfolk State, after building a 59-53 lead, got a trip downcourt that resulted in a five-point play that all but decided the contest.
The deciding stretch
NSU’s Jalen Hawkins got loose on a breakaway layup and was grabbed and fouled by MSU’s Trevor Moore. Officials ruled it an intentional foul, awarding Hawkins two shots and the Spartans the ball afterwards. Hawkins converted both free throws. On the ensuing possession, he drained a 3-pointer to put the Spartans up 64-53 with 6:33 left.
Morgan State never recovered.
Norfolk built the lead to as much as 14 at 68-54. The Bears could only cut the lead below double-digits once in the last two minutes.
Norfolk State stars come through
NSU’s two all-MEAC guards, player of the year Joe Bryant Jr. and Hawkins, a third-team all-MEAC member, led the Spartans with 19 points each. Center Kris Bankston, a second team all-MEAC selection, had six dunks in the game. He tied forward Dana Tate with 14 points.
Isaiah Burke and Malik Miller led Morgan State with 14 points each.