Norfolk State women’s hoops donkey kicks Coppin State 73-44 to advance to MEAC Title Game

title image via Norfolk State Basketball

Courtesy Norfolk State Athletics

Norfolk, VADiamond Johnson poured in a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds, while Kierra Wheeler finished with 19 to lead Norfolk State to 73-44 win over Coppin State in the semifinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament at the Norfolk Scope.

The Number 1 seeded Spartans await the winner of the game 10 semifinal match between No. 2 Howard University, against No. 3 North Carolina Central tomorrow at 4pm for the tournament championship.

Norfolk State put the game away early, bolting out to 22-9 first quarter lead.  MEAC Newcomer of the year junior guard Diamond Johnson, set the tone with 19 of her points while Wheeler, a junior forward, chipped in with 10 of her 19 to give the defending champions an insurmountable 41-18 halftime lead.

“We came out with super intensity,” said NSU Head Coach Larry Vickers, the MEAC Coach of the Year.  “We have been here before so we know what it takes to win in this tournament.  “You have to set the tone.  That was as good a first quarter as we have played all season”.

The Spartans, who have now won 13 games in a row, dominated every phase of the game, limiting the Eagles to 23 percent shooting while offensively connecting on over 50 percent from the floor.

Johnson, a transfer from NC State, has played on this stage before, having been a member of the Wolfpack Elite 8 team a couple of years ago.

“The experience of having played in the ACC and the NCAA tournament helped prepare me for this, “ said Johnson.  “We had played them twice during the early season and both games were close. So we had to come out and show that the tournament is a different level.”

Wheeler, the junior forward and MEAC Players of the Year, hit on 9 of 13 from the floor while grabbing 6 rebounds and collecting three steals and 3 blocks.

“When you add another top flight player (Johnson) to go along with another (Wheeler), it makes for a very good formula,” said Vickers, praising his two players.

Coppin finished their season as the Number 4 seed, with arguably one of their best seasons since 2016.  

“We set some records and did some impressive things this year,” said Coppin State Head Coach Jermaine Woods.  “I am so proud of their accomplishments this season.  We definitely have something to build on.”

He added that having to play back-to-back games, played a role in the team’s performance. “Having played yesterday and coming back today, you could see it in their legs,” he noted. “It definitely affects how you play.  Our focus next year will be definitely to finish as a top seed.”

The Eagles were led by freshman Niyah Gaston who scored a career-high 12 points in her hometown, while Defensive Player of the Year,  Laila Lawrence finished with nine points and seven rebounds. Second team all-conference member Angel Jones chipped in eight points and five rebounds.   

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