Norfolk, Va. — Morgan State won’t be dancing in the NCAA tournament this season, falling one win short after falling, 71-63, to Norfolk State in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament championship game Saturday at The Scope.
Joe Bryant scored 17 points and Kashaun Hicks added 14, including a pair of clinching dunks, as Norfolk State held off the Bears to earn its first NCAA Tournament bid in nine years.
Norfolk State (16-7) claimed its second MEAC title in five championship-game appearances. Its other title came in 2012 when it went on to beat No. 2 seed Missouri in the NCAA Tournament before losing to No. 7 Florida. This is the first NCAA berth under eighth-year coach Robert Jones.
Bryant scored 10 straight points in a run that gave the Spartans a double-figures lead that eventually reached 16 points and lasted until there were three minutes remaining. The Bears (14-8) got as close as six with 30.6 seconds left before Hicks sandwiched a pair of dunks around Morgan State’s final bucket to ensure the Spartans’ seventh straight win.
Devante Carter added 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks for Norfolk State.
Hicks had 3-pointer and layup to start 8-0 run for a 10-point lead with three minutes left in half. De’Torrion Ware responded with four points in a 6-0 run but a 3-pointer from Kyonze Chavis gave the Spartans 37-30 halftime lead.
Ware, who scored 35 and 29 points in Morgan State’s two tournament wins, finished with 16 points. Lagio Grantsaan added 13 points. The Bears made only 3 of 17 from the arc, missing all seven of their second-half attempts, and just 16 of 25 free throws. They had 18 turnovers, only three more than the Spartans, but got the worst of it in terms of points off those errors (24-10).
Norfolk State held Morgan State’s league-leading scoring offense to nearly 18 points under its average
With this win, the Spartans defeated the Bears four times this season. The MEAC split into two divisions because of the pandemic and teams only played within their division, resulting in Norfolk State and Morgan State facing off in four regular-season games. The Spartans and Bears were the second and third seeds, respectively, out of the North Division.
Morgan State played in its third game in three days while Norfolk played its second tournament game after its semifinal opponent, North Carolina A&T, had to withdraw after a positive COVID-19 test within its program.