Redshirt senior guard Pat Cole scored a team-high 18 points with eight rebounds to help lead the North Carolina Central Eagles to a 67-59 win against the Norfolk State Spartans in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Tournament Championship on March 11 in Norfolk, Va.
North Carolina Central Eagles celebrate their win over Norfolk State University in the MEAC championship NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 11, 2017 at Scope in Norfolk, Va. Central won the game 67-59. (Bill Tiernan/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)
The win gave N.C. Central its second MEAC tourney title in school history, also giving them their second automatic bid into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament since joining the NCAA Division I.
Norfolk State didn’t make it easy on the Eagles, though. After knocking off South Carolina State and Howard in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, the Spartans were poised to capture the MEAC crown in their home arena. And it was a tough back-and-forth between both schools throughout the entire first half of the game, as neither team led by more than six points. Norfolk State held a 38-35 lead over the Eagles at halftime.
It remained a tight game during the first seven minutes of the second half, but the Spartans eventually gassed out and went on a scoring drought that lasted 11 minutes as N.C. Central used a 19-0 run to create enough of a cushion to cruise to the championship finish line.
Cole was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament after leading the Eagles with 18 points, but fellow redshirt senior Dajuan Graf also stood out with 17 points, four assists and two steals. Redshirt senior Rashaun Madison also scored double digits in points with 12.
Junior guard Zaynah Robinson led Norfolk State in scoring with 18 points, while graduate student guard Kerwin Okoro added 12 points.