NORFOLK, Va., March 12, 2022 – After a slow start, top-seeded Norfolk State got its offense rolling behind the scoring of senior Joe Bryant, Jr., and pulled away for a 72-57 win over seventh-seeded Coppin State Saturday in the finals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament in the Scope Arena.
The Spartans will be making their third overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament and second straight.
Bryant, the MEAC Player of the Year, tossed in 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including a 5-for-9 effort from the 3-point line, to lead the Spartans and earn tournament Outstanding Performer honors for the second straight season.
Bryant got plenty of help from redshirt senior Jalen Hawkins, who had 17 points on a 5-for-9 effort from the floor, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, and junior Dana Tate, who chipped in 13 points and eight boards.
Kris Bankston also had eight boards.
Norfolk State shot 48 percent (24-for-50) for the game, including a potent 62.5 percent accuracy (15-for-24) in the final 20 minutes. The Spartans were 11-for-21 from beyond the arc and won the rebounding battle 41-26.
Coppin State, which made it to the championship game with upset wins over No. 2 Howard and No. 3 North Carolina Central, was unable to take down the league’s highest seed after experiencing its worst shooting contest of the tournament.
The Eagles finished the year at 9-23.
The Eagles, who shot just 35 percent (21-for-60) from the field and made just five of 35 3-point attempts, did have three players in double figures. Nendah Tarke, a First Team All-MEAC performer, had 16 points but was just 6-for-16 from the field and 1-for-8 on 3-pointers.
Justin Steers added 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Jesse Zarzeula contributed 12 but made just three of 13 attempts from the field.
The Spartans, who led just 24-20 after the opening half that featured four lead changes and five ties, got things going to begin the final stanza. Norfolk State scored 16 of the first 20 points of the second half to build a 40-24 advantage with 16:24 left. The run was fueled by the scoring of Tate and Hawkins who had six and five points, respectively.
Tate had two 3-pointers and Hawkins one during the run.
Coppin State rallied to get to within 47-39 on a follow shot by Steers with 11:36 to play, but a 12-2 Spartan run put the hometown Spartans ahead 59-41 – their largest lead of the game — when reserve Daryl Anderson, who had six points, nailed the second of his two 3-pointers with 7:51 remaining.
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