NORFOLK, Va., — Raasean Davis and Pablo Rivas each recorded double doubles but it was a stifling defense that proved to be the difference as No. 6 seed North Carolina Central pulled out a 58-56 win over Savannah State in the quarterfinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament at the Scope Arena.
It was a tightly contested game as it went back and forth as neither team was able to take control. The Tigers (15-17), the Number 3 seed, led 34-30 at the half. Dexter McClanahan led all scorers with 13 while Davis paced the Eagles (17-15) with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
It was more of the same in the second stanza as there were eight ties and three lead changes. North Carolina Central was able to get some small breathing room as Rivas, Davis and Reggie Gardner, Jr. scored the team’s last nine points to take a 58-53 lead with 1:10 left.
But McClanahan hit another clutch three pointer 12 seconds later to cut the deficit to 58-56. With fouls to give before the bonus, Savannah State sent the Eagles to the free throw line, but they missed the front end and gave the Tigers a chance with 11 seconds remaining.
Savannah State, one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country set up a play for McClanahan and he attempted an attempt that looked good but fell short into the arms of a teammate, who attempted a follow up that failed as the buzzer sounded.
The Tigers came into the game averaging almost 87 points a game, but North Carolina Central took them out of their rhythm by slowing the game down and milking the shot clock and running their offense down to under 10 seconds on each possession. Savannah State got their normal allotment of 32 three-point attempts but forced them to miss 24 for 25 percent.
The Eagles also dominated the boards with a decided 54-42 advantage.
McClanahan led all scorers with 23 while Austin Dasent contributed 11 in the loss.
N.C. Central was paced by Davis with 16 points and 20 rebounds, Rivas with 19 and 12 and Gardner with 10.
The Eagles take on Morgan State in the semifinal round at 8 p.m. on Friday.