SHAWNEE — Talk about a turnaround.
Playing catch-up for most of the first half, Northeastern A&M finally caught fire then erupted for 62 points over the final 20 minutes in a 99-68 romp against Eastern Oklahoma State College.
That means the Golden Norse (24-6) — the tournament’s No.1 seed and the defending Region II champ — will face Northern Oklahoma-Enid in Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal at the NJCAA Region II Division 1 men’s basketball tournament in Oklahoma Baptist University’s Noble Complex.
Northern Oklahoma-Enid held off Connors State College 98-86 in the other afternoon semifinal.
The Northeastern A&M women face Northern-Enid at 3 p.m. Friday in another semifinal game.
The Lady Norse topped Eastern 69-64 in a first round game Wednesday.
The women’s final will be at 2 p.m. and the men’s title game will be at 4 p.m. Saturday.
NEO found itself on the short end of 7-0, 9-2 and 12-4 scores in the first five minutes, but finally found its footing and used a 13-2 run to take the lead for good, 37-29.
A 23-7 salvo midway through the second half broke the game open.
NEO led by as many as 33 late in the game.
“We got things under control and played our pace instead of theirs,” Norse coach Jeremy Jackson said. “The first half, I felt we were completely playing their style of game.
“One thing that really, truly helped us was we beat them in the paint 52-36. We had a ton of points (27) off their turnovers, too.”
Eastern (11-19) coughed the ball up 20 times.
The Norse had five score in double figures and almost had a sixth: Kalil Camara finished with nine points.
Rudi Williams and Samkelo Cele led the way offensively with 18, followed by Jadan Graves with 17, Tyren Collins with 11 and Nikita Konstantynovski tallied 10.
NEO’s other seven points came from James Franklin Jr., who scored five, and Champ Bridges with two.
Dante Adams and Karmin Byrd had 20 and 16, respectively, for the Mountaineers.