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Howard defeats NSU 65-64 to win 2023 MEAC Tournament Championship

Updated: Aug 4

The one-seeded Howard Bison defeated the three-seeded Norfolk State Spartans 65-64 to win their first MEAC tournament title since 1992. The Bison earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with the victory over the former MEAC Champions.



Image featuring the Howard Basketball team celebrating after winning the 2023 MEAC tournament. Image courtesy of MEAC.com

The Howard Bison (22-12) were led by Guard Jelani Williams with 20 points off the bench. Starters for the Bison were forward Shy Odum, guard Elijah Hawkins, and forward Steve Settle III, whom each scored 9 points in the championship game, respectively. Williams was the only player for the Bison to score in double figures in the

affair.


Norfolk State Forward Dana Tate Jr. led the Spartans (22-11) by garnering 19 points and 7 rebounds in the loss. Guard Joe Bryant Jr tallied 18 points while shooting 5-13 from the field. Forward Kris Bankston and guard Terrance Jones contributed 6 points each in the championship game, respectively.


The contest started off back and forth, with both teams hitting three three-pointers in the first half. Dana Tate Jr scored 15 points including three three-pointers for the Spartans to lead for the majority of the first period. Howard turned the ball over 6 times which kept the Spartans in the lead. The reigning MEAC player of the year Joe Bryant Jr

did not score in the first half, shooting 0-2. The Bison had a late surge sparking a 9-0 run to lead 33-27 at intermission. The Bison shot 47.8 percent from the floor in the period.


Norfolk State had one turnover and shot 35.7 percent from the floor, respectively. Joe Bryant Jr scored his first points at the 19:35 minute mark in the second half, making 1 of 2 free throw attempts. Norfolk State trailed for the majority of the second half, until Dana Tate Jr scored a two-pointer at the 14:07 minute mark for the Spartans to

lead 42-41.


After multiple lead changes, Bryant Jr scored a timely two-pointer at the 1:27 minute mark to give the Spartans a 60-59 lead as time waned in the game. Bryant Jr. accumulated 18 points in the second half. Jelani Williams for the Bison hit a free throw to tie the game 60-60 with just under a minute left. Terrance Jones went to the foul line and made both shots for the Spartans to take the lead 62-60 with 49.2 seconds left in regulation.


The Spartans stopped the Bison on their next possession defensively, leading the Bison to intentionally foul and force the Spartans to shoot free throws. Bryant Jr made two free throws and extended their lead 64-60 with 23 seconds remaining in the contest.


Howard guard Marcus Dockery, who scored 5 points in the game, made a contested three-pointer that brought the Bison within a point at the 13.2 second mark.


Norfolk State held a one-point lead and possession of the ball, but forward Cahiem Brown turned the ball over on the inbounds pass to Bryant Jr, thus giving the Bison possession. Jelani Williams was fouled and sent to the free throw line, making both attempts for the Bison to lead 65-64. The Spartans had a chance to win the game with 6.1 seconds remaining, but the Bison held defensively to win the championship.


Howard has defeated Norfolk State on all three occasions this season, including an 87-67 win on March 2nd for the Bison to clinch the MEAC regular season title. Howard head coach Kenney Blakeney shared his thoughts on his team winning the championship.


“What a battle. I am a little speechless because six years ago, I was trying to run a business full-time and I’m begging people to get a job. I was very lucky Columbia hired me as a volunteer. I drove two hours to work every day with no pay and a lot of grinding just for this moment,” Blakeney said.


Howard forward Shy Odum, was the honoree of the Outstanding Performer award for the MEAC tournament. Odum overaged 15 points and 6 rebounds throughout the tournament. Jelani Williams, who was the Bison’s leading scorer in the championship game, shot 54 percent from the floor. They both conveyed their feelings on the championship win and defeating Norfolk State.


“It feels amazing man, I have to give it up to my teammates, we built a brotherhood. The most connected team wins the game and that’s the reason we knocked off that two-time champ,”

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