MEAC Women's Conference Tournament: Takeaways from Day 3

The best teams in the MEAC separated themselves in the conference semifinals, setting the stage for an epic final.

Photo Credit: Zackery Rogers

The Coppin State Eagles (No. 4) took their best shot at the Norfolk Spartans (No. 1) but came up short in a 73-44 loss in the semifinal round. In the second half of the MEAC doubleheader, the Howard Bisons declawed the North Carolina Central Eagles and beat them 69-56. 

In the first match-up, Diamond Johnson shined bright, finishing the game with 30 points 3 steals, and 2 assists while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from 3. Her ability to control the offense and get others involved helps the Spartans remain balanced throughout the game.

Game 2 was dominated by Howard — Iyanna Warren (21 points), and Kaiya Creek (21 points) led the team in scoring.

After three days of MEAC play, the finals are set and Norfolk will take on Howard. Both teams will look to capture the MEAC tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Both teams enter this matchup evenly matched, with their ability to play a deep rotation, score, and suffocate their opponents on the defensive end. 

Before we talk about the finals, let’s review day three of the MEAC Tournament.

No. 1 NSU (Spartans) - No. 4 CSU (Eagles) 

The Norfolk Spartans came out the gate swinging and dominated the Coppin Eagles on both ends of the floor. They set the tone on the defensive floor early by trapping Coppin at half-court. CSU went on a scoring drought early in the first quarter and did not score their second field goal until the 1:26 mark.

Norfolk continued to press the ball and score on turnovers, knocking down four 3-pointers in the first half. With each turnover, you could see the Coppin pride slowly ebb from the Lady Eagles.

NSU's balanced attack

NSU dominated on the glass, and grabbed 21 rebounds by halftime, and turned Coppin over 12 times. The Lady Eagles struggled to take care of the ball and get open shots. 

At halftime, Norfolk held a commanding 41-18 lead. Coppin was held to 18 points and shot 22.7 percent from the field and 15.3 percent from 3. On the flip side, NSU shot 51.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from downtown.

The second half of the game mirrored the first half as Coppin went on a 6-3 run until Norfolk answered with a quick bucket in the paint by Kierra Wheeler out of a media time-out. 

Diamond Johnson (30 points) Kierra Wheeler (19 points) and Danaijah Williams (12 points) chipped in double figures to help crush Coppin State. The veteran presence of the three helped the team avoid being complacent and take each quarter seriously.

Norfolk was able to get any shot on offense and Coppin’s defense barely put up any resistance. They forced 18 turnovers and held Coppin to 43 points. After Friday’s 73-44 blowout win, the Green & Gold will face Howard.

No. 2 HU (Bisons) - No. 3 NCCU (Eagles) 

Both Howard and North Carolina Central entered this matchup evenly matched and yearned for a true test before the finals. The first quarter was a foot race until the Lady Bisons built an early nine-point lead with one minute left. However, the Lady Eagles would force some turnovers to cut the lead down to six before the end of the quarter.

At the end of the second quarter, Howard had built a nine-point lead twice but struggled to extend it to double digits due to turnovers and bad shot selection. Later on, North Carolina Central's Kyla Bryant knocked down two huge 3s under the two-minute mark that cut Howard's lead down to seven points but their 16 turnovers made it hard for them to settle in on offense.

The second half between the Bisons and Lady Eagles did not disappoint as both teams struggled to take hold of the game. NCCU continued to deny the passing lanes and force anyone but Iyanna Warren and Kaiya Creek to score.

North Carolina Central's defense ramped up as the game went along making it tough for Howard to adjust. They also struggled to get offensive production from their front court. Although NCCU played phenomenal defense in the second half both teams went on a scoring drought with the score being 36-31 for roughly two minutes. HU's Kaiya Creek made a jumper to break the tie which would spark a small run.

Entering the fourth quarter Howard extended their lead to 13. Despite Central's effort, they struggled to score consistently and Warren started to take the game into her own hands. Central started to double-team Warren in the late stretch of the game but she continued to remain calm under pressure. The Lady Eagles cut the lead to 10 but were forced to start fouling at the two-minute mark.

HU was able to seal the win by knocking down their free throws and melting the clock. They will face Norfolk in the finals on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. EST.