NORFOLK — Norfolk State’s women handed Coppin State its first loss in MEAC play and moved into a three-way tie for first place on Saturday, beating the Coppin State Eagles 61-53 at Echols Hall.
The Spartans improved to 14-5 and 3-1 in the MEAC. The Eagles (6-12) are also 3-1 in the league along with Howard, which edged Morgan State 54-51 on Saturday.
NSU coach Larry Vickers said he was proud of the way his team responded after falling to Howard in its previous conference game last week.
“Obviously after last week’s loss, I think it kind of gave us the edge this week in practice,” Vickers said. “It was one of the better weeks of practice that we had. I thought we played with a good intensity, even from the beginning.”
Neither team got off to a roaring start, and scoring was low in the first half. Coppin State led for 58% of the first half and took a 29-26 lead into the break.
Both teams shot worse than 30% from the field in the first quarter, but were able to get things going in the second. Coppin State shot 37% from the field in the first half, while Norfolk State had a 30.8% clip.
The difference in the half was 3-pointers. Coppin State, led by guard Tiffany Hammond, was 4 for 11 from beyond the arc in the half, while Norfolk State was just 1 for 6.
Coppin State did its best to keep Norfolk State star Diamond Johnson out of rhythm early. The Eagles seemed to be putting an extra defender on her whenever the opportunity arose. Despite that, Johnson led the Spartans with 12 points at halftime.
“We watched film and we knew they were kind of going to trap the ball screen,” Johnson said. “So my coach was just saying keep your dribble and go around and make the right pass. So I was just prepared for it, basically.”
Johnson finished the game 22 points on 7-for-17 shooting. She also tallied three rebounds, an assist and a steal. Kierra Wheeler logged a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Vickers’ squad flipped a switch in the third quarter and stole the momentum for the rest of the game.
The Spartans’ defense forced seven of Coppin State’s 17 turnovers in the third quarter, and NSU scored 16 points off those turnovers.
“I think our energy was really good defensively and I thought there was an attention to detail finding shooters,” Vickers said. “I thought in the second half overall, our defensive intensity was great. We’re a little bit smaller now, from a couple of weeks ago, but I felt like our guards use their size and then I thought Skye (Robinson) was playing tough and getting rebounds.”
Norfolk State retook the lead with three minutes remaining in the third and finished the quarter on a 14-1 run.
Shots continued to fall for NSU in the fourth quarter, and the Spartans built their lead to as many as 15 at one point. Coppin State showed some fight, but was unable to get within six points for the rest of the game.
Norfolk State will return to the court at 5:30 p.m. Monday for another MEAC home matchup against Morgan State.