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Norfolk State, N.C. A&T advance; Two MEAC teams looking for new coaches?

Norfolk State and North Carolina A&T avoided upsets Monday night in Virginia. On the losing end, is it time for new coaches at Delaware State and Maryland Eastern Shore?

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NCAA Basketball: No.Carolina A&T at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The MEAC Tournament tipped off on Monday night. Here’s what you missed from last night’s action.

N.C. A&T avoids upset from Hornets

The Delaware State Hornets are the worst team in the country, according to KenPom. Entering the first round of the MEAC tournament, the Hornets had an adjusted efficiency margin of -28.64. The Hornets finished the regular season with a 4-27 record. Just two of those wins came against Division I teams. Less than two weeks ago, Del. State fired its head coach, Keith Walker.

And yet, the Hornets didn’t take a four-hour bus ride down Route 13 just to roll over in the first round.

Fourth-seeded North Carolina A&T came out on top, but it wasn’t easy. The Aggies needed overtime to beat the 13th-seeded Hornets, 62-61.

With about a minute left in overtime and the score tied at 59-59, junior Simon Okolue grabbed the rock for the Hornets and threw down a one-handed jam for the go-ahead bucket. The 6-foot-10 forward from Nigeria led the Hornets with 20 points, seven rebounds and a block.

Moments later, with Del. State leading by one point, Kavon Waller jacked a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock that missed. With less than eight seconds left and the clock ticking down, the Aggies threw the ball nearly the length of the court to Davaris McGowens under the basket. But Waller dove for the ball, and in doing so, fouled McGowens. The Aggie hit both free throws to put N.C. A&T up by a point with about two seconds to play. McGowens tallied 14 points, four rebounds and an assist for the Aggies.

It was then Del. State’s turn to throw up a Hail Mary, but there was a collision when a few Aggies and a Hornet went up for the ball. There was a whistle, and it seemed like the refs were calling a foul on N.C. A&T. Instead, a foul was called on Del. State and the game ended.

Here’s how the final moments played out, courtesy of Travon Miles at 47 ABC in Salisbury, Maryland:

The Hornets’ coaching search starts now. N.C. A&T will play again on Thursday.

Spartans handle Hawks

In a game that ended just minutes before midnight on the east coast, the hometown Norfolk State Spartans took care of business against the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks, winning 78-68.

Five Spartans scored in double digits, but sophomore guard Steven Whitley led the way with 16 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

Miryne Thomas, an All-MEAC Rookie Team selection, led the Hawks with 12 points and 14 rebounds. In his final college basketball game, senior Logan McIntosh added 14 points and five assists off the bench for Eastern Shore.

Norfolk State will face North Carolina A&T on Thursday. The Aggies won the only meeting this year between the two teams, beating the Spartans by three points on Jan. 18.

Maryland Eastern Shore coach Bobby Collins talks to his players during a timeout at Savannah State during a Jan. 2018 game.
Mitchell Northam, Mid-Major Madness

New coach at Eastern Shore?

Maryland Eastern Shore may be beginning a coaching search soon. The school has yet to announce an extension for head coach Bobby Collins, who just completed the final season of a four-year contract.

In Collins’ first season, 2014-15, he helped Eastern Shore have their best season since 1974. The Hawks went 18-15, which was third in the MEAC. The Hawks didn’t reach the conference tournament title game, but appeared in the CIT.

But whatever magic Collins worked that season, it was mostly done with players he didn’t recruit. Key players like Mike Myers, Dominique Elliott, Devon Walker, Ishaq Pitt, Iman Johnson and Mark Blackmon were on campus in Princess Anne before Collins arrived, having been recruited by his predecessor, Frankie Allen. Elliott and Myers are playing professionally overseas.

Since that fantastic first season in Princess Anne, Collins has led the Hawks to a 31-67 record.

The Hawks have never made the NCAA tournament and have appeared in the NIT just once. For the past 44 years, they have typically been one of college basketball’s worst teams, and aside from that 2014-15 season, not much has changed under Collins.