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Norfolk State women cruise to MEAC Tournament semifinals with rout of S.C. State

NORFOLK — No. 1 seed Norfolk State breezed to a 75-43 win over No. 8 seed South Carolina State on Wednesday in the first round of the MEAC Women’s Basketball Tournament.

The Spartans advance to Friday’s semifinals and will face the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup between No. 4 seed Coppin State and No. 5 Maryland Eastern Shore.

“We started a little sluggish,” head coach Larry Vickers said. “But I felt like we eventually got it together, started banding together as a team and playing basketball well. I felt like in that second and third quarter, on both ends of the floor, we were pretty locked in. Those were probably the two most dominant periods we’ve had.”

The Bulldogs were able to hang around in the first quarter thanks to 50% shooting, but that was short-lived.

Norfolk State’s stifling defense forced the Bulldogs into 17 turnovers in the first half. The Spartans were able to score 18 points off those turnovers, all while holding South Carolina State to 16.7% shooting and just six points in the second period.

“I thought our press saved us offensively,” Vickers said. “We got a lot of easy buckets off the press.”

Vickers told the media Tuesday he felt his team hadn’t been shooting well in the past few games. On Wednesday, though, Norfolk State found a groove.

The Spartans shot 51.7% from the field in the first half and most of their points came from the usual duo of Kierra Wheeler and Diamond Johnson.

Norfolk State started to run away with it in the third quarter.

The Spartans continued to shoot well, tacking 41 more points on and shooting 46.9% from the field for the game.

“We shot 4 for 16 today from three; that’s not something that we generally do, but I liked the looks that we got,” Vickers said. “So that’s the first step as we get more comfortable with the rims and the basketball, a lot more shots will go our way. But I like the looks. How many coaches up here complaining about offense when their team had 75 points?”

South Carolina State shot 34.1% mark from the field and committed 31 turnovers overall.

Johnson, who was named the MEAC’s Newcomer of the Year and to the All-MEAC first team on Tuesday, led the Spartans with 19 points and logged six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Wheeler, who was named the MEAC Player of the Year and to the All-MEAC first team on Tuesday, also finished with 19 points and tallied seven rebounds, two steals and five blocks.

Michael Sauls, (757) 803-5774, michael.sauls@virginiamedia.com