|No.3 South Carolina State Survives No. 2 Norfolk State||< All News|
|Friday, March 11, 2016|
NORFOLK, Va. – If the first semifinal in the 2016 MEAC Tournament on Friday was a snoozer, the second one could be considered an instant classic.
South Carolina State, the No. 3 seed, led by as many as 21 points in the second half, but the Spartans fought back and even took a brief lead in the closing seconds. But thanks to a pair of clutch free throws from Ed Stephens, the Bulldogs won 67-65 to advance to Saturday’s championship game.
S.C. State (19-13), making its first appearance in the championship game since 2010, will face top-seeded Hampton at 1 p.m. live on ESPN2.
The Bulldogs last won the tournament crown in 2003.
DouDou Gueye’s layup with 13:46 left in the second half gave the Bulldogs their largest lead of the game, 56-35. But D’Shon Taylor answered with a three 32 seconds later, which kicked off a Spartans comeback that took up the next 12-plus minutes.
That run came in at 30-8, culminating in a layup by Brian Kelley with 19 seconds left to give the No. 2 seed Spartans a 65-64 lead. Even though Norfolk State trailed for the vast majority of the game, it had a shot at winning the game and setting up an all-area final.
But Stephens drove to the hoop with 16 seconds left, getting fouled an hitting two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 66-65 lead.
The Spartans had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, with the shot clock off, but the layup fell wanting and Norfolk State was forced to foul again.
Eric Eaves went 1-for-2 from the line in the final second to clinch the win.
S.C. State led 45-31 at the half, after Jonathan Wade cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 26-25 with 9:23 left, but the Bulldogs closed the frame on a 19-6 run.
The Bulldogs shot almost 47-percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Spartans 32-27. Gabriel McCray led S.C. State with 16 points and eight rebounds to top four Bulldogs who finished in double figures.
Taylor led Norfolk State (17-16) with 15 points.