SAVANNAH, Ga. – For the third game in a row, the Norfolk State men’s basketball team shot better than 60 percent overall, and the result on Monday night was a 70-54 victory over Savannah State at Tiger Arena.
The Spartans hit 28-of-45 from the field (62.2 percent) to win their third in a row and fifth in the past six games. The victory moved their record to 7-1 in conference play, with all seven victories coming by at least 14 points. NSU improved to 14-9 overall.
Junior RaShid Gaston had 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting and 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double. He had 11 points in the second half as NSU pulled away from the Tigers after SSU had cut the deficit to just six.
Gaston had eight points during a 12-4 run midway through the second stanza. NSU later went on a 15-4 spurt right near the end of the game to go up by as much as 19.
Savannah State (5-15, 1-5 MEAC) led in the early part of the game, but NSU took a 10-point lead at the break. The teams traded buckets early in the second half before Savannah State scored six straight to get to within six, 39-33, at the 14:20 mark. Freshman Jordan Butler stopped the bleeding with a three-point play, and Gaston scored eight points during a 12-4 run for the Spartans that made it 54-39 with 6:27 on the clock.
The Tigers made one last run. Alante Fenner sank a pair of free throws at 3:55 to cap an 8-1 run, cutting the Spartan lead to eight, 55-47. NSU, though, scored 15 of the next 19 points in the game to put Savannah State away for good.
The Spartans connected on 16-of-24 in the second half. For the game, they also shot 5-of-12 from 3-point range.
NSU had its good and bad moments in the contest. The Spartans had a big edge on the glass, 38-20, and outscored the Tigers by a 20-8 margin in second chance points. Butler had a career-high five blocks, helping the Spartans finish with a 10-0 edge in rejections for the night.
For the second game in a row, though, NSU had more than 20 turnovers. Savannah State had just 10 giveaways compared to 21 for the Spartans, although NSU still led in points off turnovers, 13-10.
Along with Gaston, NSU had three other players in double figures. Junior Jeff Short added 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while junior D’Shon Taylor added 13 on 5-of-7 shooting. Senior Jamel Fuentes scored 10 points on 4-of-7 field goal attempts for his first double-figure scoring game of the season.
Savannah State shot 20-of-55 (36.4 percent) for the game, including a 1-of-12 effort from beyond the arc. Brian Pearson led the Tigers with 14 points.
Pearson sank a pair from the free throw line to give Savannah State an early 11-7 lead four and a half minutes into the contest. The Spartans then held the Tigers scoreless for nearly five and a half minutes. Their 7-0 run only got the lead to three, 14-11, as Fuentes finished it off with a jumper in the lane.
Senior Malik Thomas put NSU up by eight, 25-17, after sinking back-to-back 3-pointers, the latter near the right corner with 5:02 to go before intermission. The Spartans led by as much as 11 after Gaston hit a pair of layups with less than two minutes left, and NSU went into the half up 31-21.
Thomas had seven points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Butler totaled five points, six rebounds, five blocks, two assists and two steals.