NORFOLK, Va. (AP)Norfolk State’s Niya Fields scored all 11 of her points in the second half including seven at the line in the final 20 seconds to counter Howard’s comeback attempt and give the Spartans a 56-52 win on Saturday for their first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament title in 21 years.
Norfolk State, leading the nation in scoring defense, field-goal percentage defense and ranking third in 3-point defense, survived a 30-point performance from conference player of the year Destiny Howell, who made eight 3-pointers.
After she made six 3s and scored 21 points in the first half for a one-point lead, Howell was held scoreless in the third only to almost bring the Bison back with a nine-point fourth quarter.
Howell finished 9-of-21 shooting and was 8 of 15 from the arc. Aziah Hudson added 10 points for the third-seeded Bison (16-14), who beat the Spartans for the tournament championship last season.
Makoye Diawara also scored 11 points for the top-seeded Spartans (26-6), who were the regular-season champions.
The Spartans had a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter when the Bison went on a 9-2 run and closed to within three with 41 seconds remaining.
Fields then traded two pairs of free throws with two 3-pointers by Howell as the lead shrank to one with seven seconds left. But Fields added two more from the line with 5.7 remaining and a desperation half-court shot by the Bison that wasn’t close was waved off because of traveling. Fields added another free throw for the final score.
The Spartans, trailing 30-29 at halftime, scored the final eight points of the third quarter and led 41-35 after Fields capped the run with a baseline 3-pointer. Howard was 2-of-13 shooting in the period.
Howard was 11 of 24 from the arc to 5 of 22 by Norfolk State. But the Spartans dominated the boards 45-30, including 15-6 on the offensive end for a 16-2 advantage on second-chance points.
The teams split their two regular-season games.
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