NORFOLK, Va. – Ninth-seeded South Carolina State used a hot-shooting first half to build a 10-point lead, then beat back a second-half rally by North Carolina Central, the eight seed, to earn a 76-67 victory over the Lady Eagles Tuesday in first-round action of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament at The Scope.
S.C. State will meet top-seeded North Carolina A&T on Wednesday at noon in quarterfinal action.
The Lady Bulldogs, who started the game with nine players but were down to only seven able bodies by game’s end, nailed 66.7 percent (10-15) of their opportunities in racing to a 27-15 lead after one and made 7-14 (50.0) in the second to take a 51-41 advantage to the locker room. The 58 percent shooting was the best first-half showing of the year Coach Doug Robertson’s team, which also connected on 2-4 attempts from long range in the opening half.
Graduate guard Bryeasha Blair had 21 points, including an 11-12 effort from the free throw line, to power S.C. State. Regina Garret added 11 points – including 3-4 from beyond the arc – and Jasmine Williams and Kyesha contributed 10 points each in the victory, which lifted Robertson’s team to 12-17.
Williams had 12 rebounds and Garret seven for S.C. State, which enjoyed a 45-33 advantage on the boards.
“Today, we got a great team effort from our players,” Robertson said. “We executed well in the first half and got some good looks around the basket. N.C. Central had recently beaten us pretty good (81-63) at home and we were without one of our starters, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.
“But we told the players that most of the women’s games (all upsets) had been low scoring … in the 50s, so we wanted to push the ball up the floor and get up as many shots as we could. We ended up scoring 76 points. That’s a lot of points for our team.”
S.C. State scored 76 points just five times during the campaign and two of the showings were against Division II or NAIA opponents.
A slow-starting team most of the year, the Lady Bulldogs were surprisingly up by 10 after two periods. The Lady Eagles, however, began the third period with a 16-7 run to close the gap to 48-47 on a 3-pointer by Kieche White with 2:55 left in the quarter.
But Jasmine Williams got a follow shot to ignite a 6-0 spree that gave the Lady Bulldogs a 54-47 edge after three. The margin could have been larger had not S.C. State missed 4-6 free throws in the final 1:28 of the quarter in which the Lady Eagles outscored the Lady Bulldogs 16-13.
N.C. Central got the first basket of the final period to close to within 56-49 on a Jada Blow basket, but Williams sandwiched two follow shots around a Garrett 3-pointer for S.C. State during a 9-4 run that pushed the Lady Bulldog advantage back to double digits, 63-53, with 3:02 on the clock.
The closest the Lady Eagles came after that was six points twice, the last time 65-59 on a steal and layup by Blow with just over two minutes to play. S.C. State finished the game on an 11-8 run for the final margin.
N.C. Central was led by Blow with 18 points. White added 16 and Jayla Calhoun 10 and a team-high nine boards for the Lady Eagles, who ended the campaign at 9-21.