Spartans Hold off Bethune-Cookman 73-70 for 1st MEAC Title - Mar 10, 2012
Led by a deep, veteran roster and an incomparable big man, the Norfolk State mens basketball team is going to the Big Dance for the first time ever. Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kyle O''Quinn scored 18 points to lead three Spartans in double figures as No. 2 NSU claimed its first-ever MEAC title and NCAA Division I Tournament berth with a 73-70 win over Bethune-Cookman on Saturday afternoon at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. O'Quinn had 18 points and seven rebounds, Pendarvis Williams (6'6''-G-91) added 17 points and all-tournament team selection Rob Johnson (6'7''-G/F-89) had 15 to pace the Spartans (25-9). Kevin Dukes (5'9''-G-90) led five Wildcat (18-17) players in double figures with 18 points. NSU built a double-digit lead late in the first half and maintained it for much of the second half before having to fend off the upset-minded Wildcats in the final seconds. Johnson scored 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor in the second half. His two free throws with 7:30 left gave NSU a 56-42 lead. The 14-point cushion matched the Spartans biggest advantage of the second half. But the Wildcats, playing their fourth game in five days, had one more rally in them. Garrius Holloman (6'6''-F) scored on back-to-back B-CU possessions to get his team within six on two occasions. But NSU wing player Brandon Wheeless (6'4''-G/F-87) corralled an offensive rebound off a missed Johnson free throw to give the Spartans a 63-55 lead with 3:27 left. Still, B-CU kept coming. NSU broke the Wildcats full-court press and O'Quinn dunked to push the Spartan lead to 71-64 with 51 seconds remaining. But BCU sliced its deficit to five on a Javoris Bryant score, and NSU split four free throws that allowed the Wildcats to get within four, and finally three on Hollomans tip-in with 18 seconds left. O'Quinn slipped with the ball and was called for traveling with 17 seconds left, giving the Wildcats a chance to tie. But Holloman missed a contested 3-pointer, and Ricky Johnson was unable to get off a potential tying trey in the final seconds, settling for a long two-point jumper that missed as NSU held on. NSU controlled the middle 20 minutes of the game. Williams hit a pair of field goals sandwiched around a 3-pointer by Johnson to complete a 7-0 run that gave the Spartans a 17-10 lead. But Hollomans tip-in with 6:30 remaining in the half capped a 10-4 Wildcats spurt and cut NSUs advantage to 21-20. But that was the Wildcats last field goal of the half as NSU outscored B-CU 12-0 over the final 5:08 of the opening period. O'Quinn scored six of those points on a trio of turn-around jumpers, then dished to Chris McEachin (6'5''-G/F-89) for a 3-pointer with 1:07 on the clock that gave the Spartans their largest lead of the half, 35-22, heading into the intermission. The Spartans held B-CU to 8-of-26 shooting (31 percent) in the first half. NSU, meanwhile, connected on 14-of-33 (42 percent) and committed just four turnovers. The Spartans also outrebounded B-CU 21-13 in the first half, with 11 of those boards coming on the offensive end. NSU held the Wildcats without a field goal for the first four-plus minutes of the second half and extended its lead to 42-28 on Johnsons step-back baseline jumper with 15:43 left to play. But the Wildcats heated up, connecting on 49 percent of their shots in the second half (18-of-37) to finish at 41 percent for the game. Bryant had 15 points, Adrien Coleman (6'5''-G-90) 14, Holloman 12 and Ricky Johnson 11 for the Wildcats. Those four and leading scorer Dukes were the only B-CU players who scored. The Spartans shot 44 percent for the game and made 78 percent from the foul line (21-of-27). NSU also outrebounded the Wildcats 37-30. O'Quinn and Johnson were both named to the all-tournament team. O'Quinn becomes the first player since Hamptons Tommy Adams to win both MEAC Player of the Year and MEAC Tournament MVP since 2002. There is a great basketball tradition at Norfolk State, said head coach Anthony Evans, who was named MEAC Tournament Most Outstanding Coach. We see all the old CIAA championship banners in (Echols Hall) every day, and were honored and excited to be able to add a MEAC banner to the rafters.
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