Norfolk State opens MEAC Tournament against Coppin State

Title image via Niya Grant Photography

Courtesy of Alex Lehmbeck, Asst. SID, Norfolk State Athletics

NORFOLK, Va. – After earning the No. 3 seed for the upcoming 2023 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Norfolk Scope Arena, NSU will battle sixth-seed Coppin State on Thursday night in the quarterfinal round.
Norfolk State (20-10, 9-5 MEAC) is looking to become just the second team since 2000 to win the tournament in three consecutive seasons, lifting the trophy in both 2021 and 2022. The team’s opening battle against the Eagles (9-22, 4-10) will tip-off at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 9, closing out the event’s quarterfinal slate.
If the Spartans defeat Coppin State, they’ll play in the semifinals on Friday, Mar. 9 at 8 p.m. against the winner of two-seed North Carolina Central and seven-seed Delaware State’s matchup.
If the Spartans defeat Coppin State, they’ll play in the semifinals on Friday, Mar. 9 at 8 p.m. against the winner of two-seed North Carolina Central and seven-seed Delaware State’s matchup.
All games will be broadcast live on ESPN networks. Quarterfinal and semifinal games will be streamed live on ESPN+, with the championship game airing live at 1 p.m. on Saturday on ESPN2.
Last Time Out
Norfolk State fell to Howard 87-67 at Burr Gymnasium on Thursday, concluding the Spartans’ regular season campaign.
Kris Bankston and Dana Tate Jr. led the Spartans with 18 points each, while Joe Bryant Jr. added nine points. Bankston shot 6-of-7 from the floor (85.7 percent).
Bryant Leads All-MEAC Honors
Norfolk State senior guard Joe Bryant Jr. was named the 2022-23 MEAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year on Tuesday evening, in addition to earning All-MEAC First Team honors. He becomes the first player to win the award in back-to-back seasons since Delaware State’s Jahsha Bluntt (2005-06, 2006-07).
The historic recognition headlined three Spartans to earn MEAC accolades on Tuesday. Graduate forward Kris Bankston was named to the All-Defensive Team, while joining Bryant on the All-MEAC First Team. Freshman George Beale Jr. made the All-Rookie Team.
Last Meeting/All-Time Series
Norfolk State leads the all-time series with Coppin State 38-15, splitting the regular season series this season. The Spartans won the first matchup on the road 96-65, led by 21 points from Cahiem BrownKris Bankston (19 points), Joe Bryant Jr. (17), and George Beale Jr. (17) also scored in double figures, with Bankston adding 13 rebounds.
Coppin State got its revenge on the Spartans’ senior night, defeating NSU 69-62. Dana Tate Jr. (11), Brown (11), and Bryant (10) scored in double figures, but the Eagles received a veteran performance from guard Nendah Tarke (19 points and four rebounds).
Tests With the Top
To be the best you have to compete against the best, and the Spartans have done just that this year, facing three teams ranked in the AP Top 10 in a span of one month.
The Spartans battled Baylor in their third matchup of the season (ranked No.  5 at the time), before facing UCLA just two days later (No. 8). NSU played Houston on Nov. 29, the number-one ranked team in the country.
Dominance Against CAA
Of Norfolk State’s seven nonconference wins against Division I opponents this year, five of them came against CAA teams (Monmouth, Hampton (2x), William & Mary, North Carolina A&T), going undefeated against the conference this season.
The Spartans also picked up victories against SWAC (Alabama A&M) and MAC (Bowling Green) opponents.
Neutral Site, Bright Lights, No Problem
Norfolk State has played in three regular season multi-team events this year, owning a 4-0 record during those showcase opportunities.
The Spartans defeated Alabama A&M 89-83 at the ATL Has Something to Say HBCU Challenge in Atlanta, Ga., before besting Hampton (78-66) and North Carolina A&T (70-66) at the Boost Mobile HBCU Challenge Hosted by Chris Paul.
The Pirates and Spartans met once again for another Battle of the Bay matchup on Feb. 4 for the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic Hosted by Michael B. Jordan. Norfolk State swept the season series with an 83-71 victory at the Prudential Center in front of nearly 13,500 fans.
What Deficit?
NSU has erased a double-digit deficit in a victory 25 times since the start of the 2014-15 season, including in two consecutive matchups this year against William & Mary (Dec. 10) and Bowling Green (Dec. 14).
Protecting the Rock
The Spartans are 12-3 this year when recording more steals than their opponent, and 15-2 when recording fewer turnovers.
Ahead at the Half
The Spartans are 17-3 when ahead at the half this season. Under Jones, NSU has compiled a 139-30 record when leading at the half.
Predictable Numbers
Norfolk State is 15-1 this year when shooting a higher percentage on 3-pointers than its opponent.
Quick Hits
• NSU has amassed the best overall record of any MEAC team (20-10) this year, with 19-12 Howard owning the next strongest overall win-loss record.
• Kris Bankston is shooting 69.7 percent from the floor this season, after breaking the Norfolk State single-season field goal percentage record last year on a 71.1 percent clip. Bankston’s current mark leads the conference.
• Joe Bryant Jr. ranks third in the MEAC with 17.3 points per game, while adding 3.3 assists per game (fifth in MEAC) and 2.3 3-pointers per contest (second). Cahiem Brown is sixth in the MEAC with 3.0 assists per game.
• Bankston’s 7.1 rebounds per game rank second in the MEAC, while his 1.6 blocks per game stand second in the conference.
• Chris Ford ranks 10th in the MEAC in blocks per game (0.7).
• Norfolk State was predicted to finish first in the MEAC this season in the conference’s annual preseason poll, with 127 points and 15 first-place votes.
• Three Norfolk State players were selected to Preseason All-MEAC Teams: Joe Bryant Jr. (First Team, Player of the Year), Kris Bankston (First Team), and Dana Tate Jr. (Third Team).
• Joe Bryant Jr. ranks first in the MEAC with a free throw percentage of 84.2. Last year, Bryant led the MEAC and set Norfolk State’s single-season record for the category (91.5).
• As a team, Norfolk State ranks first in the MEAC in free throw percentage (73.9).
• Norfolk State leads the MEAC in assist to turnover ratio at 0.98.

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