Stanley Elliott scored a game-high 16 points and Kevin Dukes added 13 to help Bethune Cookman defeat South Carolina State, 62-53 in the quarterfinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's tournament at the LJVM Coliseum.
The Wildcats (16-16), the Number 4 seed, will take on the Eagles of North Carolina Central, the Number 5 seed, on Thursday at 8 pm.
Elliott got Bethune Cookman off to a good start by scoring 10 of his points in the first 20 minutes as the Wildcats led, 27-18 at the half. The Bethune Cookman defense also played a major role by forcing the Bulldogs (5-26) to miss 16 of their 22 shots and converting 10 turnovers into 20 points.
"The game plan was to control the tempo," explained Bethune Cookman Interim head coach Gravelle Craig. "We played zone and slowed it down to the tempo that we wanted to play."
Despite trailing at the half, SC State did manage to scrap its way back into the game with a mini run that reduced the deficit to two. Bethune Cookman Interim Coach Gravelle Craig called a timeout. It proved to be timely as Dukes canned a three-point shot that upped the lead back to five, but more importantly took the wind out of the Bulldogs sails.
"The three pointer by Dukes was huge," lamented SC State head coach Tim Carter. "We had been hounding him on defense and knew that he was probably the only guy that could step up and make the three. We wanted to maintain an arm length distance to him, but he knew he was open, stepped up and made the shot. That was crucial."
Added Craig, "That shot by Dukes gave us a cushion. It was a big shot."
From there, Bethune Cookman ran their offense comfortably on their possessions, maintaining a seven to nine-point lead and cruising to the victory.
The Bulldogs got a team-high 13 points from Khalif Toombs and 12 each from Brandon Riley and reserve Presano Bell. SC State shot 55 percent in the second half from the field and 85 percent from the free throw line, but it was not enough to offset the Wildcats' 36-22 advantage of points in the pain,t and the 19 points off turnovers.
"This game was all about defense," said Dukes, who had four of the Wildcats' 12 steals.
In addition to the scoring honors for Elliott and Dukes, Ricky Johnson came off the bench to score all 10 of his points in the second stanza.