NORFOLK, Va. (MEAC Communications, Bill Hamilton) – Top-seeded Norfolk State built a 15-point advantage with seven minutes left and used accuracy from the free throw line down the stretch to hold off eighth-seeded Delaware State 74-66 Wednesday in quarterfinal action of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament in Scope Arena.
The Spartans, the regular-season champion in the league, struggled with the scrappy Hornets most of the evening. After going ahead 56-41 on a breakaway basket by Jalen Hawkins, who led Norfolk State with 17 points, the Spartans saw Delaware State storm back to close the gap to 59-55 on a Dominik Fragala 3-pointer with 4:37 left on the game clock.
MEAC Coach of the Year Robert Jones’ team only scored one basket the rest of the way, a 3-pointer by Dana Tate, Jr. at the 4:03 mark, but the tourney favorite connected on 12 of 14 attempts from the charity stripe to pull out the win and advance to Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal against the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup between third-seeded Morgan State and fifth-seeded South Carolina State.
The Spartans improved to 22-6 on the season.
Following Hawkins in the scoring column for Norfolk State was Tate and Kris Bankston with 14 points each. Hawkins, Tate and Bankston had seven rebounds each for the Spartans, who enjoyed a 41-25 edge on the boards.
Delaware State, who closed out its campaign at 2-26, got a game-high 27 points from Myles Carter, who also added a game-high nine rebounds. John Stansbury added 12 points, Fragala 11 and D’Marco Baucum 10 in the loss.
Delaware State, behind 11 first-half points from First Team All-MEAC honoree Myles Carter, battled the heavily-favored Spartans for most of the period and was down just 31-30 at the break after a 3-pointer by Stansbury as the first-half horn sounded.
Norfolk State scored the first seven points of the final half to build a 38-30 edge but every time Norfolk State threatened to open a comfortable lead, the Hornets rallied to stay close. The Hornets came roaring back and closed to within 41-39 on a Stansbury drive with 12:39 left.
Delaware State then had a chance to tie but Bankston blocked a layup attempt by Chris Perkins and got a layup on the other end to ignite a 13-2 run that gave the Spartans a 56-41 advantage at the seven-minute mark.
A Stansbury drive with 6:42 remaining started a 14-3 Hornet run to close the gap to four, 59-55, with 4:37 on the clock before the Spartans sealed the win with their 12-14 effort from the charity stripe.