GAME NOTES: First-round action of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament will head to Ypsilanti, as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's Norfolk State Spartans battle the Mid-American Conference's Eastern Michigan Eagles at the Convocation Center.
Norfolk State advanced past Maryland-Eastern Shore and Savannah State in the MEAC Tournament, but dropped a 68-45 decision in the semifinal round to eventual conference champion North Carolina Central. The Spartans enter this contest having won three of their last five games.
Eastern Michigan had quite the schedule through which to navigate in the MAC Tournament, and safely advanced through the first round against Central Michigan, the second round over Northern Illinois, and the quarterfinal round over Buffalo. Eventually the rapid pace of the tournament caught up with the Eagles, as they were downed in the semifinals by Toledo, 59-44.
This matchup between Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan will mark the first- ever meeting of the two sides.
Norfolk State finally hit a wall offensively against the NC Central Eagles. NC Central took a 32-24 lead into the intermission over the Spartans and never looked back, as the Eagles outscored Norfolk State in the second half, 36-21, to earn the dominant victory. Pendarvis Williams was the only Spartans player to net a double-digit point total in the contest, scoring 12 in 37 minutes played. Brandon Goode recorded nine rebounds and six blocked shots to lead the team, which shot 41 percent from the floor in the loss.
Williams tops the team in scoring this season with a 15.8 ppg average, while teammate Malcolm Hawkins isn't far behind the pace at all with a 15.5 ppg mark, although that was dropped a bit after his six-point performance against NC Central. Good chips in 11 ppg with a team-leading 7 rpg average and an extremely impressive 80 blocked shots. Jamel Fuentes leads the Spartans this year with 162 assists, adding a third-best 36 steals to his resume. Norfolk State averages 71.9 ppg through 33 games played.
Like Norfolk State, Eastern Michigan's offense simply ran dry in the team's last outing against Toledo, which wad the Eagles' fourth game in five days. The Rockets held just a four-point lead over EMU at the intermission, but it was Toledo's defense that stepped it up in the second period by holding the Eagles to just 16 points (on 22.6 percent shooting). Glenn Bryant, the only EMU player to record a double-digit point total, netted 11 points and blocked six shots in the loss. Mike Talley scored eight points and dished out a team- high five assists, and Da'Shonte Riley grabbed a team-best nine rebounds.
Karrington Ward, who netted seven points in the loss to Toledo, leads the Eagles in scoring heading into this event with 12.7 ppg, chipping in a team- best 6.5 rpg mark along with 50 steals. Talley, the team's field general, leads the squad with a 3.6 apg average, and is second in the scoring category with 10.2 ppg. Raven Lee is following right behind at 10.1 ppg for an Eagles squad netting 66 ppg. But Eastern Michigan has been a solid defensive unit, allowing just 61.3 ppg to opponents.
Not only does Eastern Michigan have the advantage in terms of being able to play on its home court in this game, but in terms of competition this season there's no comparison. Norfolk State lost to Virginia, an NCAA Tournament one- seed, earlier this season. But Eastern Michigan has faced teams such as Duke, Syracuse, Kentucky, UMass, and Purdue. They were all losses, but having the experience and then playing in a highly contested MAC race should help the Eagles along the way in the CIT.
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