Norfolk State dropped a heartbreaker on the road in just their first MEAC loss of the season with a 70-67 defeat at N.C Central on Monday night in a nationally-televised game on ESPNU. The Spartans (15-5, 6-1 MEAC) got a team-high 18 from Joe Bryant Jr., the Eagles improve to 9-10 overall and 3-1 in the MEAC.
The Spartans opened up scoring the game’s first four points with layups by Kris Bankston and Dana Tate Jr. Following a pair of missed free-throws by the Eagles, the Spartans took advantage of some key rebounding and passing, scoring the next five points with a three from Tyrese Jenkins and a turnaround jumper from Jalen Hawkins, forcing a NCCU timeout.
With NSU up 16-6 at the second media timeout, the Eagles went on an 8-2 run to pull within four. NCCU used a five-point stretch to pull within three, 22-19. But the Spartans used a six point run of their own to pull back ahead by nine with just over five minutes left in the half.
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After a shot clock check, Bryant scored a banked-in floater to give NSU a 34-30 lead at the break.
The Spartans out-rebounded the Eagles in the first half 23-18 while also having the edge in field goal percentage (41.9 to 33.3).
After some back and forth early in the second half, the Spartans pushed their lead to eight, 47-39, at the second media timeout. Tate Jr. scored seven of NSU’s first 13 points of the half while both Hawkins and Bankston scored three. The Eagles looked to claw back in over the next four minutes, but the Spartans had a 9-8 point advantage led by Bryant’s four with 8:14 left in the game.
A jumper by Justin Wright and a three by Alex Caldwell pulled NCCU within two at 56-54 before a Tate Jr. floater off the back of an Eagle defender gave the Spartans their halftime lead of four.
The Eagles took their lead with just 1:32 left in the game off a three, 64-62. A layup by Justin Wright pushed it to a four-point lead with under a minute remaining. It was the only lead NCCU had the entire game and the Eagles held on for the 70-67 win, as a last second heave by NSU to force overtime did not go in.
Tate had 17 points and eight boards and Hawkins chipped in 12 with five steals.
Courtesy: Norfolk State Athletics
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