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Spartans hold off Bison to capture MEAC tournament championship

Norfolk State ends 21-year drought to claim first title since 2002

NORFOLK, Va. — Niya Fields sank the final three free throws as the Norfolk State University women's basketball team ended a 21-year drought by winning the 2023 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Women's Basketball Tournament, holding off Howard, 56-52, on Saturday night at the Norfolk Scope Arena. 

The Spartans (26-6), who last won the MEAC Championship in 2002, earned the MEAC's automatic bid and will await Sunday night's NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament selection show for their next opponent. With the loss, Howard ended the season at 16-14. 

Norfolk State, which avenged last season's championship loss to the Bison, led by as many as 10 points in the final quarter, but watched as Howard trimmed the deficit to one in the last seven seconds. However, Fields made three of her final four shots at the foul line as the Spartans won their second-ever MEAC Tournament title.

Fields scored 11 points, eight of those coming at the free-throw line, to pace NSU. She also pulled down seven rebounds and added one steal. Makoye Diawara also registered 11 points, on 4-of-6 shooting, with a team-high nine boards and one steal. 

Destiny Howell, the MEAC's Player of the Year, scored 21 of her game-high 30 points in the first half. She went 8-for-15 from behind the 3-point line, including six of those coming in the first half, and finished with two assists, one rebound and one steal. Aziah Hudson chipped in 10 points, four assists and two boards, while Krislyn Marsh pulled down a game-high 12 boards. 

Norfolk State, which shot 29.4 percent in the first period, scored the first bucket of the game 27 seconds into the contest, but went cold from the floor, going more than seven minutes without a field goal. 

Howard took advantage of the cold-shooting woes early on by the Spartans, racing out to a 14-2 advantage after a 3-pointer by Kaniyah Harris with 3:15 left 

Back-to-back baskets by Da'naijah Williams ended the cold spell as NSU closed the gap to 14-7 with 1:34 remaining. 

The Bison pushed the lead to 13-7 after a layup by Krislyn Marsh, but the Spartans trimmed the deficit to 13-9 after a layup by Deja Francis right before the end of the quarter. 

Norfolk State began the second strong with three straight triples by Crystal White and Diawara as the Spartans grabbed an 18-13 advantage less than a minute into the quarter. 

Howard rallied and tied the game at 25 after a three-point play by Howell with just under four minutes to play in the first half. 

Neither team got much going in the final three minutes as Howell drained her sixth 3-pointer of the half and Mahoganie Williams scored on a layup as the Bison took a slim, 30-29, lead into the break. 

Both teams went cold from the floor shooting to open the third as a free throw by Niya Fields tied the game at 30 with 7:06 left in the period. 

The Spartans grabbed a 33-32 advantage on a jumper by Diawara with 5:45 remaining as the two teams combined to go 2-for-16 from the field in the opening six minutes of the period. 

Norfolk State caught fire over the final minute of the third as Skye Robinson sank a free throw, followed by a layup by Francis and Fields closed out the period with a 3-pointer as the Spartans took a 41-35 lead into the final quarter. 

The Spartans, on the heel of a 9-0 run in between quarters, extended the lead to 43-35 after a layup by Downs 19 seconds into the fourth. 

NSU stretched the lead to double digits, 47-37, after a Francis layup with just over five minutes to play. 

However, Howard took advantage of a technical foul on Camille Downs, closing the deficit to 47-43 with 3:20 remaining. 

A long jumper by Diawara pushed the lead to 49-43 with 2:39 left, but Howard refused to go away as Aziah Hudson sank a pair at the free-throw line, keeping the game close, 49-45, with 1:43 remaining. 

A foul on Francis sent Howell to the charity stripe, who sank 1-of-2, to cut the deficit to 49-46 with 40.3 seconds. 

Norfolk State got clutch free throws by Fields down the stretch as Howard cut the margin to one with seven seconds left. However, Fields sank the final three free throws lifting the Spartans to tournament championship. 


  • Norfolk State shot 35.2percent (19-of-54) from the floor and 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from the free-throw line 
  • Niya Fields scored 11 points, with seven rebounds and one steal 
  • Makoye Diawara also registered 11 points, on 4-of-6 shooting, with a team-high nine boards and one steal 
  • The Spartans finished with 24 points in the paint, 17 points off 15 Howard turnovers, 16 bench points, 16 second-chance points and nine fast break points 
  • Howard went 17-of-50 shooting (34.0 percent) and 7-of-14 (50.0 percent) from the charity stripe 
  • Destiny Howell registered 30 points, including 21 in the first half, with two assists, one rebound and one steal 
  • Aziah Hudson chipped in 10 points, four assists and two boards, while Krislyn Marsh pulled down a game-high 12 boards 
  • The Bison finished with 18 points off 17 NSU turnovers, 10 points in the paint, four fastbreak points, three bench points and two second-chance points 
  • The two teams combined to shoot 6-for-27 in the third quarter 


  • Norfolk State wins its first MEAC Women's Tournament Championship since 2002
  • The Spartans won the regular season and tournament championship
  • NSU receives the MEAC's automatic bid into the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament
  • The 26 wins are a Norfolk State Division I Record
  • The 26 wins ties the mark held during the 1989-1990 season 
  • Larry Vickers becomes the first head coach since James Sweat to win the MEAC Tournament Championship
  • Kierra Wheeler was named the MEAC's Outstanding Performer 
  • In three tournament games, Wheeler averaged 16.3 points and 8.6 rebounds
  • Larry Vickers was named the MEAC's Outstanding Coach
  • Kierra Wheeler and Camille Downs were selected to the All-Tournament Team

Norfolk State punches its ticket the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament. The Spartans will find out their opponent on Sunday evening when the tournament bracket is announced at 8 p.m. on ESPN. 

For complete coverage of Norfolk State athletics, please follow the Spartans on social media at @NSUSpartans (Twitter), /NorfolkStateAthletics (Facebook), @NSUAthletics (Instagram), @nsuathletics (YouTube) or visit the official home of Norfolk State Athletics at nsuspartans.com. 


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