GAME NOTES: The chalk prevailed in the top half of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament bracket, as the top-seeded North Carolina Central Eagles will take on the fourth-seeded Norfolk State Spartans in the semifinal round at Scope Arena on Friday night.
The winner advances to the title bout on Saturday to take on either Morgan State or Coppin State.
The teams met in Norfolk in the regular-season finale on March 6, with NCCU coming out on top, 76-70, although Norfolk State still leads the all-time series, 27-9.
After squeaking by last-place Maryland-Eastern Shore in the opening round, 78-74, Norfolk State (19-13) punched its ticket to the semifinal round with a 57-47 triumph over Savannah State in the quarterfinals on Thursday night, pulling away from what was a close game midway through the second half with a 13-0 run. The squad outshot Savannah State from the field, 44.7 percent to 38.8 percent, and were paced by 20 points from Pendarvis Williams shot 7-of-11 from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 at the free-throw line. Brandon Goode was also stellar with 10 points on 5-of-6 from the floor, while Rashid Gaston hauled in 10 rebounds.
The Spartans are one of the few teams in the MEAC to score more points per game (72.8) than they allow (71.0 ppg). Williams and Malcolm Hawkins are tied for the team lead in scoring with 15.9 ppg apiece, while Goode brings 11.3 ppg and 6.9 rpg to the frontcourt.
NCCU's status as the regular-season MEAC champion earned it a first-round bye, and it won its 18th consecutive game to move to 26-5 in its quarterfinal blowout of eighth-seeded Howard on Wednesday night, 92-46. In a dominant effort from start to finish, the Eagles shot a blistering 61.2 percent from the field, including 10-of-20 from 3-point range, while holding Howard to a mere 23.9 percent shooting. Jeremy Ingram was the spark plug with 30 points on 5-of-6 from beyond the arc, while Alfonzo Houston and Jay Copeland chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively.
NCCU is far and away the MEAC's most well-rounded team, as it not only shoots 46.5 percent from the field for 74.2 ppg but ranks in the top-10 nationally in both scoring defense (58.8 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.372). Ingram is the conference's second-leading scorer with 20.5 ppg, Jordan Parks brings 10.2 ppg to the mix off the bench and Emanuel Chapman (6.5 ppg) hands out 6.6 apg.
Norfolk State poses a moderate threat to NCCU's outstanding season, especially if it can piece together as well-rounded a game as it did in the quarterfinals. However, with the Eagles flying high after their blowout in the earlier round, they seem poised to continue their journey towards a league championship.
Game Date and Time