Title image via Niya Grant Photography
Courtesy of Brian Howard, Asst. AD/Communication, Norfolk State Athletics
NORFOLK, Va. |Kierra Wheeler scored 15 of her game-high 21 points in the second half as the Norfolk State University women’s basketball team advanced to the 2023 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals with a 61-37 victory over South Carolina State on Wednesday afternoon at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
The Spartans (24-6) advance to Friday’s semifinals and will meet the winner of North Carolina Central and Coppin State. With the loss, South Carolina State concludes the season with a 3-27 record.
Wheeler, who went 7-of-12 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the foul line, also finished with a double-double, adding 10 rebounds, seven on the offensive glass, along with two assists, two steals and one blocked shot. Crystal White recorded nine points, while Makoye Diawara pulled down eight boards.
Nicole Gwynn paced the Bulldogs offense with 12 points, six rebounds, two steals and one assist. Lovely Sonnier registered 10 points, eight boards, four steals, one assist and one blocked shot.
Norfolk State started slow out of the gate, jumping out to a 7-2 advantage after a Wheeler bucket with just under three minutes to play.
South Carolina State, which shot 2-for-12 in the first period, ended a four-plus scoring drought with a layup by Gwynn, cutting the deficit to 7-2 with 2:04 remaining and a bucket by Da’Naijah Williams bucket gave the Spartans a 9-4 lead after one quarter.
The Bulldogs, on the heels of a 7-0 run in between quarters, tied the game at 9 on a jumper by Lovely Sonnier with 8:32 remaining.
The Spartans responded with an 11-2 run, capped by a triple by Deja Francis, taking a 20-11 lead with 1:32 remaining.
South Carolina State got a three to end the run, cutting the margin to 20-14 but a Skye Robinsonlayup sent the Spartans into the break with a 22-14 advantage.
Norfolk State extended the lead to 26-14 after layups by Wheeler and Niya Fields, forcing SCSU to call a timeout.
The Spartans continued to stretch the lead, using a commanding 11-2 run, capped by a Diawara layup, pushing the margin to 37-15.
South Carolina State scored nine of the next 10 points, closing the gap to 38-24 at the end of the third period.
The Bulldogs got as close as 12 points, 38-26, after a jumper by Sonnier with 8:52 left, but Norfolk State answered with nine straight points, capped by a White 3-pointer to push the lead to 50-26 with 5:14 remaining.
South Carolina State could not rally and Norfolk State advanced to the MEAC Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals for the fifth straight season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Norfolk State shot 38.6 percent (22-of-57) from the floor and 75.0 percent (12-of-16) from the free-throw line
- Kierra Wheeler registered a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds, with two assists, two steals and one blocked shot
- Crystal White tallied nine points, two boards and two assists
- The Spartans finished with 32 points in the paint, 25 points off 24 South Carolina State turnovers, 19 bench points, 17 second-chance points and eight fast break points
- South Carolina State went 15-of-47 shooting (31.9 percent) and 3-of-7 (42.9 percent) from the charity stripe
- Nicole Gwynn led the way with 12 points, along with six boards, two steals and one assist
- Lovely Sonnier recorded 10 points, eight rebounds, four steals, one assist and one blocked shot
- The Bulldogs finished with 10 points in the paint, seven points off 15 Norfolk State turnovers, six bench points, six fast break points and four second-chance points
Norfolk State returns to action the MEAC Women’s Tournament Semifinals and will meet the winner of North Carolina Central and Coppin State on Friday. Tip-off for the semifinal matchup is set for 12 p.m. from the Norfolk Scope Arena and will be streamed live on ESPN+.