NORFOLK, Va., (MEAC) – Jonathan Wade and Zaynah Robinson each scored 10 second-half points and the defense shut down the Howard offense as Norfolk State pulled away for a 68-53 win in the semifinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Tournament at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
The Spartans (17-15), the No. 2 seed, advance to the championship game on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the No. 1 seed North Carolina Central. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.
The Bison (10-24) had been the surprise of the tournament after coming in as the No. 11 seed and knocking off both the No. 7 seed Coppin State and the No. 3 seed Morgan State.
Early on, it appeared as though the Bison could perhaps pull off yet another upset.
With MEAC Rookie of the Year Charles Williams scoring 12 points in the first 20 minutes, Howard took a 32-30 lead to the locker room. James Miller added seven points, but it got little else from any of the players.
Norfolk State came out in the first minutes of the second half and wasted no time in putting pressure on the fatigued Bison, who wanted to play a slowdown, grind-it-out game. The Spartans went to their full-court pressure with zone trapping and reeled off a 22-12 run that had the undermanned Bison trying to score.
It resulted into fast break opportunities for Wade and Robinson. Jordan Butler also got into the fray and Howard had no answer. When the trio was not scoring, the inside presence gave the Bison problems. The Spartans, the top shot blocking team in the MEAC, recorded nine for the game while also dominating the glass, 52-35.
The Spartans’ defense was so stifling that it held Howard to one field goal over a seven-minute stretch. Adding to that was the fact that fatigue began to set in for the Bison and it showed at the free throw line where they were 5 of 11 in the second half and 8 of 33 from the field.
Wade finished with 17, Robinson with 16 and Butler with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Williams led Howard with 14 and Collins and Miller with 11 each.