Hampton 89, Savannah State 55
NORFOLK, Va. – Hampton, the top seed in the 2016 MEAC Men’s Basketball Tournament, left no doubt in the semifinal round on Friday, dominating No. 5 Savannah State 89-55 at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
The Pirates will face either No. 2 Norfolk State or No. 3 South Carolina State in Saturday’s championship game at 1 p.m. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
Reginald Johnson, Jr. led four Pirates in double figures with 18 points, while also dishing out four assists. Quinton Chievous added 15 points and a team-high 13 rebounds, while Brian Darden finished with 14 points. Lawrence Cooks chipped in 10. [easyazon_infoblock align=”right” cart=”y” identifier=”B015T5MNVO” locale=”US” tag=”hbcusports-20″]
The Pirates shot 58-percent for the game, scoring 52 points in the second half and hitting a season-best 73.3-percent of their 3-pointers. Hampton also hit 20 of its 23 free-throws and held a commanding 36-20 edge on the glass.
Hampton led 37-29 at the half, but quickly established control in the second half. What was a nine-point lead eventually ballooned to 60-36 after the Pirates went on a 20-5 run. The Pirates cruised from there, resting starters and advancing to its second straight title game with ease.
Savannah State shot 35.8-percent from the floor and struggled at the free-throw line (11-for-17, 64.7-percent).
Christopher Martin led the Tigers with 13 points.
If the first semifinal in the 2016 MEAC Tournament on Friday was a snoozer, the second one could be considered an instant classic.
South Carolina State, the No. 3 seed, led by as many as 21 points in the second half, but the Spartans fought back and even took a brief lead in the closing seconds. But thanks to a pair of clutch free throws from Ed Stephens, the Bulldogs won 67-65 to advance to Saturday’s championship game.
S.C. State (19-13), making its first appearance in the championship game since 2010, will face top-seeded Hampton at 1 p.m. live on ESPN2. [easyazon_infoblock align=”right” cart=”y” identifier=”B006S19XPI” locale=”US” tag=”hbcusports-20″]
The Bulldogs last won the tournament crown in 2003.
DouDou Gueye’s layup with 13:46 left in the second half gave the Bulldogs their largest lead of the game, 56-35. But D’Shon Taylor answered with a three 32 seconds later, which kicked off a Spartans comeback that took up the next 12-plus minutes.
That run came in at 30-8, culminating in a layup by Brian Kelley with 19 seconds left to give the No. 2 seed Spartans a 65-64 lead. Even though Norfolk State trailed for the vast majority of the game, it had a shot at winning the game and setting up an all-area final.
But Stephens drove to the hoop with 16 seconds left, getting fouled an hitting two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 66-65 lead.
The Spartans had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, with the shot clock off, but the layup fell wanting and Norfolk State was forced to foul again.
Eric Eaves went 1-for-2 from the line in the final second to clinch the win.
S.C. State led 45-31 at the half, after Jonathan Wade cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 26-25 with 9:23 left, but the Bulldogs closed the frame on a 19-6 run.
The Bulldogs shot almost 47-percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Spartans 32-27. Gabriel McCray led S.C. State with 16 points and eight rebounds to top four Bulldogs who finished in double figures.
Taylor led Norfolk State (17-16) with 15 points.