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HBCU Basketball

MEAC and SWAC stars lead the way into tournament play this weekend

Two more wins and it’s on to the NCAA tournament for the winners

The semifinals are set for the two historically black college and university (HBCU) conferences playing to get automatic bids to the NCAA men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments, and if you’re looking for excitement, the stars of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) are leading the way.

The biggest of them might be Grambling State’s Shakyla Hill, whose quadruple-double earlier this season woke up the basketball world to this black girl’s magic.

Hill had an exceptional night as No. 3 seed Grambling State overcame an upset-minded Alcorn State earlier this week to earn a semifinal matchup against defending champion Texas Southern in the SWAC women’s tournament in Houston. Hill, a first-team All-SWAC selection, had 30 points, 8 steals, 6 assists and 5 rebounds for Grambling. In the second semifinal, Southern takes on Prairie View A&M, which features the conference’s freshman of the year, Jhyrah Cobb, and newcomer of the year Shala Dobbins.

On the men’s side in the SWAC, Texas Southern is looking to defend its league title against Prairie View A&M, while Southern takes on Arkansas-Pine Bluff, led by Martaveous McKnight, who doubled as both the SWAC men’s player and newcomer of the year.

Texas Southern‘s sizzling second-half shooting opened it up as the Tigers made 65 percent of their shots from the field to ease past Alabama State 90-76 in Houston. Southern relied on All-SWAC first-teamer Jared Sam, who had 12 points and five rebounds, to beat Jackson State 62-60 and advance to the semifinals.

Saturday’s men’s title game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

If you’re looking for highlights, though, from HBCU play, check out Tiwian Kendley of Morgan State in the MEAC. The Bears upset No.2-seeded Bethune Cookman behind Kendley’s game-high 31 points earlier this week. The Bears had a losing record headed into the postseason, but with All-MEAC first-team selection Phillip Carr, who had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds against B-C, and Kendley, Morgan State heads into Friday’s semifinal against N.C. Central ready to pull off another upset.

The other MEAC men’s semifinals will be between top-seeded Hampton, which was the hottest team going into the tournament, against North Carolina A&T, which is having a turnaround season this year led by Femi Olujobi, an All-MEAC selection.

N.C. A&T’s top-seeded women open semifinal play at the Norfolk Scope Arena at noon against No. 12 seed Florida A&M, followed by Bethune-Cookman against Hampton.

The men’s finale will air live on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. Saturday.