NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) –After North Carolina Central tied the game to force overtime, Norfolk State pulled away for the 72-65 win at Scope Arena, allowing the Spartans to reach the MEAC tournament championship game for the third-straight season.
“We had to step up and dig deep, because we could have easily folded,” said Norfolk State coach Robert Jones, “because obviously, we should have probably won the game in regulation.”
Joe Bryant scored 10 of his 23 points in overtime to allow NSU (22-10, 9-5 MEAC) to pull away. The MEAC player of the year also added 10 rebounds. Kris Bankston nearly had his own double-double, scoring 20 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Norfolk State, as a team, won the battle of the boards, 45-31.
It’s the second time in as many games that Norfolk State has exacted revenge for late-season losses, and with its matchup against Howard in the MEAC tournament championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Scope Arena, will be able to do it a third time.
The Spartans had closed out the regular season with three losses in their last four games – to Coppin State, North Carolina Central and Howard. But they’ve checked the first two teams off of their get-revenge-on list.
Now they have one more.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well, both making under 40% from the field, and the Eagles didn’t score for more than eight minutes to start the game, going 0-for-10 from the field in that time.
And while the Spartans went up by 11 in the first half, a 9-0 run to end the half allowed North Carolina Central to cut the NSU lead to two.
The Eagles went ahead early in the second half, but some Spartans pressure allowed them to go on a 13-0 run to move ahead again.
But North Carolina Central stayed close, and Justin Wright’s off-balance 3-pointer with a second left in regulation sent the game to overtime.
After being held to just two field goals in regulation, it became the Joe Bryant show in overtime, and it kept the Spartans in the running for a MEAC tournament title and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
And now, Norfolk State has a chance to go 3-for-3 on revenge games if it can beat tournament top-seed Howard Saturday.
It’ll also go 3-for-3 on MEAC tournament titles and secure the conference’s automatic bid into the big dance.