|Norfolk State Wins 2012 MEAC Basketball Title||< All News|
|Saturday, March 10, 2012|
NORFOLK STATE HOLDS OFF BETHUNE-COOKMAN TO EARN TOURNAMENT TITLE
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., March 10, 2012 -- MEAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year Kyle O’Quinn scored a team-high 18 points to lead Norfolk State to a 73-70 victory over Bethune-Cookman to capture the 2012 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament Title at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The No. 2 Spartans (25-9), who earned their first-ever MEAC title, receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and will await the announcement in tomorrow’s selection show of their post-season opponent.
The two teams battled back and forth through the early part of the first half until the Spartans used a 14-4 run over the last seven minutes to take a 35-22 advantage. Pendarvis Williams, a 6-6 sophomore guard and O’Quinn combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds between them.
The Wildcats (18-17) were limited to 31-percent shooting on an 8-for-26 effort. They were out-rebounded, 21-13.
“Rebounding was huge in the first half, especially on the offensive glass,” explained Bethune-Cookman interim head coach Gravelle Craig. “That was the reason that they were able to get the lead.”
Norfolk State maintained a 12 to 14-point lead over the first 14 minutes until the scrappy Wildcats began to chip away at the lead.
“We knew it would be a battle,” said Norfolk State Coach Anthony Evans. “They are relentless going to the basket and they never give up.”
Bethune-Cookman was able to get the lead down to eight on four different occasions, but each time, Norfolk State would answer with timely baskets from O’Quinn and Johnson.
“O’Quinn was a big factor; he got his hands on a lot of balls,” said Craig. “He made us change a lot of our shots.”
Added Evans. “We depend a lot on those guys (O’Quinn and Williams) and Rob’s (Johnson) play off the bench has been a big spark for us.”
Trailing 69-60 at the 1:28 mark, the Wildcats staged a furious rally, outscoring the Spartans, 10-4 in less than a minute. Kevin Dukes, who scored 12 of his team-high 18 in the second along with Garrius Holloman and Adrien Coleman led the rally.
With the score, 73-70 and just 17 seconds on the clock, the Wildcats had possession following a Norfolk State turnover.
Holloman scored four of the points during that stretch and attempted a 3-point shot that just missed. Bethune Cookman got the offensive rebound and Dukes got off another three that missed as the buzzer sounded, setting off a big celebration.
“I was hoping to knock it down for my teammates,” said Holloman. “I saw at the end that it was off just a little bit. I didn’t get great rotation on it.”
It was the Spartans’ first tournament championship since joining the conference in 1997. For O’Quinn, a senior who finished with 18 points on 6 of 12 shooting and seven rebounds, the championship had special meaning.
“I always dreamed of playing in a championship game,” said O’Quinn. “I credit all my teammates with all the awards I received this year. But this is a very special accomplishment.”
It was also the first time that Wildcats have advanced to the championship round. Dukes, who added four assists to his totals was reflective on the game and the season.
“What we accomplished this year was not unexpected to us,” proclaimed Dukes. “Maybe to others. We knew we had a good group. We vowed to work hard and come together as a team. We will be back.”
The Wildcats won the MEAC regular season title last year but were eliminated in the first round of the 2011 MEAC Basketball Tournament.
NSU’s Pendarvis Williams added 17 and Rob Johnson came off the bench to tally 12 of his 15 in the second half.
Bethune-Cookman placed five players in double figures: Dukes (18), Javoris Bryant (15), Coleman (14), Holloman (12) and Johnson (11).
The 2012 All-Tournament team consisted of Amin Stevens (Florida A&M), Chris Tolson (Hampton), Coleman (Bethune-Cookman), Johnson (Norfolk State) and O’Quinn, who was named Tournament Outstanding Performer. Norfolk State’s Evans was named Tournament Outstanding Coach.