No. 12 Hawks Open MEAC with Hometown No. 5 Norfolk State
PRINCESS ANNE, Maryland -
With the most important week of the season finally upon them, 12th-seeded Maryland Eastern Shore men’s basketball (7-24, 3-13 MEAC) opens the 2018 MEAC Tournament on Monday night against No. 5 Norfolk State (13-18, 11-5 MEAC). Tip from Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia is set for approximately 9 p.m.
The winner of Monday night’s game will face the winner of No. 4 North Carolina A&T State and No. 13 Delaware State in the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Last Time Out
Eastern Shore suffocated Delaware State 59-47 to win its regular season finale last Monday night. Tyler Jones led the way with 21 points, his third straight game with a blackjack. The Hornets’ 47 points were the fewest the Hawks have given up since holding Navy to 46 points on Dec. 15, 2014.
Bobby Collins on the Matchup
“I think Norfolk State is a very talent basketball team. They’ve got a lot of pieces that can hurt you. It’s a quick turnaround for them, but it’s a quick turnaround time for us too. We’ve still got them on the brain from the last time.
“They do a great job of attacking and crashing the boards, which is where they hurt us last time. Their point guard Steven Whitley, he’s a quiet assassin. He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who can score it, but he’s capable of both scoring and putting his teammates in a position to score.”
This will be the 64th matchup between the Hawks and the Spartans. Norfolk State leads the all-time series 44-19 and has won three straight duels.
The teams met just over a week ago as Eastern Shore welcomed Norfolk State to the Hytche Center on Feb. 24. The Hawks reduced an 11-point deficit to 33-30 at halftime and got within one point twice in the second half, but the Spartans surged ahead late to win 74-63. Steven Whitley packed the box score for NSU with 14 points, eight boards, and seven assists. Tyler Jones chipped in 21 to lead The Shore.
Hawk Quick Shots
The Hawks are looking for their first MEAC Tournament title since 1974. Last season Eastern Shore won multiple games in a MEAC Tournament for the first time since ’74 on the way to its first semifinal berth since 1994.
Freshman forward Miryne Thomas earned MEAC All-Rookie Team honors on Friday, becoming the third Hawk in four seasons to make the squad. Ryan Andino (2015) and Dontae Caldwell (2016) did so in back-to-back seasons at the beginning of the Bobby Collins era. Thomas finished top-25 in the MEAC in points per game (11.1) and led all freshmen in rebounding (7.6 per game, fifth in MEAC).
Tyler Jones came on strong at the end of the season and finished as the team’s leading scorer at 12.2 points per game, upping that average to 15.1 in league contests. The sophomore forward eclipsed the 20-point margin six times this season, all in conference play, including a 28-point effort against eventual MEAC co-champions Hampton. Jones hauled in a career-high 13 rebounds on Monday night against Delaware State.
9 – Days since the Hawks and Spartans met at the Hytche Center (NSU won 67-57)
3 – Consecutive 21-point games for Tyler Jones (15.1 MEAC PPG)
.304 – Field goal percentage for DelState against the Hawks last Monday
About Norfolk State
Norfolk State followed up its win in Princess Anne last Saturday by beating Howard to force a five-way tie atop the MEAC with one game to go. With a share of the regular season title in their grasp, the Spartans fell to intra-city rival Hampton 74-71 at home, losing out on the crown and a first-round bye. By finishing tied for fourth with North Carolina A&T, NSU finished outside the top three for the first time since 2009-10.
Redshirt-sophomore guard Steven Whitley led the then-struggling Spartans to a midseason resurgence. The Robert Morris transfer and one-time Eastern Shore target leads the team in points (12.0) and assists (4.6) per game. Whitley came up huge for NSU in their season-shifting win over Savannah State on Feb. 17, scoring 15 points and dishing out 10 assists. Whitley came up huge in NSU’s close call against Hampton, scoring a season-high 27 points on a mind-boggling 12-of-16 shooting.
Head coach Robert Jones was an assistant when Norfolk State won their only MEAC Tournament title in 2012. The Spartans beat Bethune-Cookman at LJVM Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; the tourney would move to the Norfolk Scope the next year. In front of a friendly partisan crowd, NSU has advanced to the tournament semifinals every year since 2014, making it to the championship game last season before bowing to North Carolina Central.
Monday’s game will be broadcast locally on flagship radio station Fox Sports 960 AM WTGM and online at EasternShoreHawks.com. The game is the fifth out of five on Monday at Scope Arena; tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. but will likely start later. Pregame coverage starts approximately 15 minutes before tip with Will DeBoer on the call for The Shore Sports Network.
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