Reginald Gardner Jr. scored 20 points and his four 3-pointers sparked key second-half runs that powered sixth-seeded North Carolina Central past No. 11 seed Coppin State , 60-48, in Tuesday night's opening round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament in Norfolk, Va.
Jordan Perkins added 12 points with five assists and Raasean Davis grabbed nine rebounds for NC Central (16-15), which advances to face No. 3 seed Savannah State in Thursday's first semifinal.
Trailing 18-17 at halftime, NC Central took a 23-22 lead on Perkins' tip-in and led by five after Gardner hit three 3s. Coppin State closed to 35-33 on Taqwain Drummond's layup, but Gardner's 3 sparked a 13-2 run and NC Central led 58-39 with 1:56 left after hitting eight free throws.
Karonn Davis scored 13 points with five assists and Lamar Morgan added 10 points for Coppin State (5-27), which shot 28.3 percent from the field.
UMES trailed by five to start the second half, but outscored Delaware State 50-27 in the second half. The Hawks face Bethune-Cookman in today's quarterfinal at 2 p.m.
"I think [the difference in the second half] was just getting those jitters out," Byrom said. "It is really a brand new team coming to the tournament with new players — and freshmen — that haven't played in this atmosphere and we have a lot of pressure on us too. Just getting those out and letting them know to just play how you play and get comfortable."
Monday night men
Norfolk State 78, UMES 68: Steven Whitley had 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists Monday night and the No. 5 seed Spartans beat the 12th-seeded Hawks in the first round of the MEAC tournament in Norfolk, Va.
Norfolk State (14-18) advanced to face No. 4 seed North Carolina A&T in the quarterfinals Thursday.
UMES (7-25) had a late rally with nine straight points to close the deficit to 70-60, but the Spartans answered with five quick points and kept the lead in double digits.
Cameron Bacote and Logan McIntosh had 14 points each for UMES.