NORFOLK, Va., — The sixth-seeded North Carolina Central Eagles are headed back to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament championship game, following a 79-70 defeat of No. 7 Morgan State on Friday night in a semifinal game at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
The Eagles (18-15), the defending 2017 tournament champion will now take on the top-seeded Pirates of Hampton, the 2016 champion in a battle of the last two tournament champions in Saturday’s MEAC championship game at 1 p.m.
NCCU improved to 52-40 all-time against the Bears and have now won the last eight meetings.
Raasean Davis recorded a double-double with a team-high 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting and a game-high 11 rebounds to lead the Eagles. Pablo Rivas came off the bench to score 16 points.
Morgan State (13-19), the preseason favorite, pulled within 22-21 on a free throw by Tiwian Kendley with 7:09 left in the first half. North Carolina Central, however would score the next six points to trigger a 13-5 spurt to close out the half and take a 35-26 lead at the break.
NCCU did the majority of its damage inside behind the play of Davis, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting. The Eagles would hold a 24-6 advantage in points in the paint in the first half and finished the game outscoring Morgan State, 46-24 in the paint.
Morgan State shot 8-of-32 (25 percent) in the first half, while NCCU was 15-of-26 for 57.7 percent.
The Eagles extended their lead to 15 points at 57-42, after a jumper by Dominique Reid with 11:38 left in the half. Morgan State responded with a 9-0 spurt, which included a three-pointer from David Syfax in the right corner, as the Bears pulled within 57-51.
Morgan State would get within 60-55 with 7:41 left in the game, but the Eagles would score seven straight to increase their cushion to 12 points at 67-55. The Bears made one last push and got within 67-60, but NCCU countered with an 11-4 run to extend the lead to 78-64.
The Eagles finished the game shooting 59.6 percent (31-of-52) for the game. Morgan State shot 23-of-58 for 39.7 percent. NCCU would hold a 37-26 rebounding advantage over Morgan State.
Kendley, who led Morgan State with a game-high 30 points, ended his career with 1,032 points in 44 games to move into 25th all-time at Morgan State. Martez Cameron added 11 points and Syfax came off the bench to score 11 points.