NC A&T (17-16) vs. Delaware State (15-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 15, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Norfolk Scope Arena (10,253) -- Norfolk, Virginia. Television: None. Home Record: NCAT 9-3, DSU 8-3. Away Record: NCAT 5-12, DSU 5-12. Neutral Record: NCAT 3-1, DSU 2-2. Conference Record: NCAT 8-8, DSU 8-8. Series Record: NC A&T leads, 55-28.
GAME NOTES: An unexpected semifinal-round matchup is on tap in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament, as the seventh-seeded NC A&T Aggies take on the sixth-seeded Delaware State Hornets at Norfolk Scope Arena on Friday night.
The winner will advance to Saturday's championship game to face either Bethune-Cookman or Morgan State.
NC A&T defeated Florida A&M in Tuesday's opening round, 65-54, and then followed that up with an outstanding 55-42 upset victory over No. 2 seed North Carolina Central in the quarterfinals on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of this event for the first time in six years. The Aggies have won four of their last five contests dating back to the regular season to move over .500 on the season at 17-16.
After losing its final two games of the regular season, Delaware State got its act together in time for the conference tourney. The Hornets started with a first-round win over Howard (73-61), then they upset third-seeded Hampton in the quarterfinals on Thursday in dramatic fashion, 63-60, to improve to 15-17 on the season.
Delaware State won the only meeting between these two teams this season, 53-44, in Dover on Feb. 4. NC A&T still leads the all-time series however, 55-28.
Despite shooting a lackluster 36.6 percent from the field in its latest game, NC A&T still rolled to a 13-point win over one of the league favorites by playing outstanding defense, holding NCCU to a woeful field goal percentage (.226) while forcing 17 turnovers. Adrian Powell and Lamont Middleton did enough to lead the modest offensive attack, pouring in 13 points apiece. The Aggies have been humming a similar tune all season long, as they have been vulnerable on the offensive end of the court with just 61.7 ppg, but they make up for it with a strong scoring defense (60.8 ppg). Middleton and Powell have been neck-and-neck for the scoring lead all year long, as each puts up 12.2 ppg.
Delaware State got off to a fast start in its quarterfinal matchup, getting out to a 27-11 lead late in the first half, but not only did it see its lead dissipate in the second half but they trailed by seven with under eight minutes left. The Hornets battled back to tie the game at the 1:15 mark, and then with nine seconds remaining, Tahj Tate drilled the game-winning 3- pointer. Kendall Gray and Casey Walker netted 13 points apiece in the winning effort, while Tate added 12 points and Marques Oliver logged eight points and 11 rebounds. DSU is typically an offensively-challenged team, scoring just 60.0 ppg on 40.8 percent from the field, but luckily it is able to stay competitive most of the time thanks to a solid scoring defense (62.8 ppg). Tate leads the way with 12.6 ppg, while Oliver (9.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is a great defender with 2.0 bpg and 1.7 spg.
In a MEAC Tournament where all four of the top seeds were eliminated prior to the semifinal round, it's safe to say that anything can happen from here on out. In what is sure to be a defensive struggle, expect NC A&T to keep the momentum rolling after dominating the league's most potent offense in NCCU the last time out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: NC A&T 58, Delaware State 55
03/15 10:35:51 ET