Joe Bryant, Jr. scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half to rally Norfolk State past Coppin State Thursday in quarterfinal action of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament at the Scope Arena.
NSU improved to 21-10 and will meet North Carolina Central in Friday’s 8 p.m. semifinals.
Coppin State ended its campaign at 9-23. Mike Hood had 18 points and six boards to lead the Eagles. Sam Sessoms had 12 points, seven rebounds and assists each for head coach Juan Dixon’s team.
The Spartans, boosted by a boisterous crowd, took control of the game early in the second half. After trailing 24-23 at the break, Norfolk State rallied to take a 34-32 lead on a jumper by Dana Tate, Jr. with 13:50 left.
Sessoms completed a three-point play as the Eagles regained the lead at 35-34 with 13:32 on the clock. Bryant, then put his team on his back, igniting a 21-8 run that gave Norfolk State a 55-43 advantage with 5:54 to play.
Bryant had 10 points during the decisive spree. The Spartan senior started the run with a 3-pointer, found Tate for a layup, then fed Kris Bankston for a 3-point play to put the Spartans ahead 42-38 with 11:14 left.
The Eagles’ Hood made three from the charity stripe after being fouled attempting a shot from beyond the arc, to pull the Eagles to within 44-41 with 9:41 showing but Norfolk State scored 11 of the next 13 points for a 55-43 cushion with just under six minutes remaining.
The Spartans lead never got under single digits the rest of the way and ballooned to as much as 19 points in the final minute.
Following Bryant in the scoring column for Norfolk State were Tate and Bankston with 13 points each, while Jack Doumbia added 11. Bankston led the Spartans on the boards with a game-high 12.
Following a 9-9 tie with 13:53 left in the first half, Coppin took a 17-13 lead with 5:45 on the first-half clock and built as much as a seven-point lead at 22-15 before Norfolk sliced the margin to 24-23 at the break.
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