NORFOLK, Va. (WTVD) -- A slow start doomed North Carolina Central's hopes in the Mid-Eastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night.
Norfolk State opened the game with a barrage of treys, jumping out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back in an 87-58 victory.
The win sends the Spartans (15-7) directly to Saturday's championship game as their semifinal opponent, top-seeded North Carolina A&T, was forced to withdraw from the tournament because of a positive COVID-19 test within its program.
It was NCCU's first conference tournament loss since 2016, snapping an 11-game winning streak for the Eagles that included three consecutive championships.
Joe Bryant Jr. scored a career-high 30 points for Norfolk State. Bryant shot 7 for 10 on 3-pointers and. Kashaun Hicks had 13 points for the Spartans. Devante Carter added 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
The Eagles were scoreless for the first seven minutes but fought back, using a 3-pointer by Mike Melvin to pull the Eagles within 44-33 at the half.
Senior C.J. Keyser, in his final collegiate game, had 19 points for the Eagles. Deven Palmer added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Eagles, who ended their season 5-9.
The Associated Press contirbuted.