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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Patrick Cole scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, Dajuan Graf added 17 points, and North Carolina Central beat Norfolk State 67-59 on Saturday in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament championship game for the Eagles' second NCAA Tournament spot in four years.
"We had won by large margins in the previous two games, so when Norfolk came out and hit us early, it woke us up," said Cole, the MEAC player of the year and tournament MVP.
After a back-and-forth first half, NCCU used a 19-0 run in the second half to pull away as the Spartans missed 14 straight shots and committed five turnovers during an 11-minute stretch. Bryan Gellineau hit a foul-line jumper with 3:20 left to finally end the drought at 62-48 with 3:29 to go.
"That was a critical point in the game," Norfolk State coach Robert Jones said. "We had four chances at one point to cut the deficit from eight to six or less, but we failed to and on the fifth, they took the lead to 10."
Rashaun Madison hit three 3-pointers and scored 12 points for top-seeded NCCU (25-8), which went to the line 27 times compared to six for Norfolk State.
Zaynah Robinson had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists for No. 2 seed Norfolk State (17-16), which was seeking its second MEAC Tournament title. Kerwin Okoro added 12 points, and Jonathan Wade, averaging 19.7 points per game, was held to five points on 2-of-10 shooting.
Neither team led by more than six points in a first half that Norfolk State led 38-35. Robinson had 10 points in the half.
"I thought that we did not play the kind of defense that we are accustomed to," Eagles coach LeVelle Moton said. "We made some adjustments and did a much better job in the second half. Defense is who we are."
Norfolk State, which has participated in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament each of the last three years, shot 43 percent in the first half but the NCCU defense forced 24 missed shots in the second.
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