Sunday, March 12, 2017

NCCU Eagles Punch Ticket to NCAA Tournament

NORFOLK, Virginia -- North Carolina Central University had to battle Norfolk State for every point in the first half, but a 19-0 run in the second half proved to be the difference as the Eagles won the 2017 MEAC Tournament Championship for the second time in the Division-I era, 67-59 on Saturday, March 11 at Scope Arena.

NCCU (25-8) has now won both of its championship appearances in the Division-I era, and will make its second NCAA Tournament appearance, following the Eagles' inaugural trip in 2014.

The first 20 minutes was a back-and-forth affair with both teams trading buckets, and neither leading by more than six points. NCCU had a clean look at the bucket at the end of the first half, but a three-pointer came up just a bit short and the Eagles went to the half trailing NSU (17-16) 38-35.

The second half began by following the same trend, but at the 13:49 mark the Eagles took the lead 47-46 and didn't look back. NCCU held the Spartans scoreless for 11 consecutive minutes, and forced 14 missed shots and five turnovers.

Patrick Cole (Newark, N.J.) posted a joint game-high 18 points with eight rebounds and three assists, followed by Dajuan Graf (Charlotte, N.C.) with 17 points and four assists. Rashaun Madison (Norfolk, Va.) was the third Eagle in double-digits with 12 points and three made trey. Kyle Benton (Long Beach, Calif.) was close to a double-double with eight points and eight boards, as was Del'vin Dickerson (Houston, Texas) with seven points and seven rebounds.

Zaynah Robinson (Atlanta, Ga.) led the Spartans with 18 points and six rebounds with four assists, and Kerwin Okoro (Bronx, N.Y.) was another top performer with 12 points.

Cole was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, and head coach LeVelle Moton was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Coach. Graf rounded out the individual honors by joining Cole on the All-Tournament Team.

The Eagles will learn who their next opponent is during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday, March 12 at 5:30 p.m. All fans are invited to celebrate with the Eagles and watch the Selection Show at McDougald-McLendon Arena, and doors will open at 4:30 p.m.



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