In the 2015 NCAA Tournament, the Hampton Pirates found themselves in Dayton, OH in the First Four, fighting for a 16-seed and a spot in the Second Round.
After taking down the Manhattan Jaspers to do just that, they were paired up against the high-powered Kentucky Wildcats. They got a taste of the bright lights on the national stage in the Big Dance, and found themselves one win away from being there again in 2016.
In their way, the upstart South Carolina State Bulldogs were looking to take down the regular season champions and go dancing themselves. In the regular season, the Bulldogs went on the road and took down the Pirates, and they were looking to knock them off once more.
In the end, only one team could advance to the NCAA Tournament, and it was a tight game early on. After being tied at 39-all after the first half, the Pirates pulled away in the second half to come away with the win.
Hampton secured their second-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament with an 81-69 win over the South Carolina State Bulldogs.
Four players scored in double-figures for the Pirates, who won their 21st game of the season, and avenged their loss to the Bulldogs early in the year. Quinton Chievous scored 13 points and pulled down 7 rebounds, while Brian Darden scored a team-high 22 points.
Eric Eaves scored a game-high 25 points off the bench to lead the way for the Bulldogs.
In the first half, it looked as though South Carolina State was going to run away with the game. Eaves hit a jumper with 8:49 to play in the half to give the Bulldogs a 7-point lead, at 26-19.
Hampton didn’t back down, and took a 34-33 lead of their own after a pair of free throws from Lawrence Cooks with just over a minute to go in the half. The teams were tied at 39-all after the opening 20 minutes.
Ed Stephens opened the second half with a three pointer for the Bulldogs, and South Carolina State would build off the lead from there. On a pair of occasions, they would stretch their lead to as many as 9 points, thanks in large part to Eaves.
Like the first half, the Pirates didn’t back down, and continued to fight. They weren’t going to let a spot in the NCAA Tournament slip through their fingers.
With 8:36 to play, Darden hit a pair of free throws to give the Pirates a 61-59 lead. They would never trail the rest of the way. The Bulldogs would tie the game on two occasions, with the second coming with 4:11 to play on a jumper from Tashombe Riley, but were unable to take a lead of their own down the stretch.
Hampton held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for the final 2:32 of the game, allowing them to stretch their lead and pull away for the victory.
With their 81-69 win over the South Carolina State Bulldogs, the Hampton Pirates are headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, and sixth time in school history.
Tayshombe Riley and Gabe McCray finished with 10 points apiece for the South Carolina State Bulldogs. They were unable to build on their large second half lead, falling short in their push for an NCAA Tournament spot.
The last time the Bulldogs made the Big Dance was back in 2003, when they lost to the Oklahoma Sooners in the opening round.
Reginals Johnson, Jr. scored 21 points and dished out 8 assists, while Jervon Pressley came off the bench to record 14 points and 9 rebounds.
With the win, the Hampton Pirates (21-10, 13-3) are headed back to the Big Dance. While they could find themselves back in Dayton for the First Four, they know what it takes to move past that round, and that experience could be the leg up they need on their opponent.
Despite the loss, the future is bright for the South Carolina State Bulldogs (19-14, 12-4). They could find themselves in either the 2016 CBI or 2016 CIT, which we will find out on Selection Sunday.