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Norfolk State’s next step will be an important one

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Norfolk State v Florida

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 18: Players for the Norfolk State Spartans huddle up prior to playing against the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 18, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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Following a win over a 2-seed as Norfolk State was able to do on Friday against Missouri, a team tends to dream big about the prospects of going even further.

But with a hay maker in the form of a 25-0 run early in the first half, 7-seed Florida put an end to any hopes the Spartans had of making the MEAC’s first-ever Sweet 16 appearance.

Kenny Boynton scored a game-high 20 points, leading five Gators in double figures as they whipped Norfolk State 84-50, ending the Spartans’ season with a mark of 26-10.

“I’m extremely proud of our team,” said head coach Anthony Evans. “We have done things that no one has ever done before at your University. I’m proud of them. I appreciate their effort.”

The biggest question for Evans and his staff now is what they do for an encore, something that three of the four other 15-seeds have struggled with.

Before this season, only one of the four 15-seeds to win an NCAA tournament game returned to the tournament the following season (Hampton in 2002 after they beat Iowa State the season prior).

Five seniors were a key part of Norfolk State’s nucleus, led by forward Kyle O’Quinn and wing Chris McEachin, meaning that there will be some holes to fill in the off-season.

While that’s a conversation for another day as college basketball fans marvel at the fact that the Spartans were able to reach this point, it’s an important one to have.

“Making it to the tournament helps you financially but the exposure we received from Kyle and all the players to everything, the University, I think it will help our profile,” said Evans. “We should be able to recruit a different athlete, different type of player. I think we will be able to compete and get back here.”

How Evans and his staff address life after the Big Dance will ultimately shape the path on which Norfolk State travels in the future.

Raphielle Johnson is the assistant editor at and can be followed at @raphiellej.