Norfolk State secured its 20th win of the season and moved into a first-place tie in the MEAC standings after an 88-76 victory over South Carolina State at the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center on Saturday.
The occasion marked the Spartans’ second consecutive year with at least 20 wins, the first time achieving the feat in back-to-back seasons since the 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns.
Joe Bryant Jr. led Norfolk State (20-8, 9-3 MEAC) with 24 points, his 10th 20-point game of the season. The Spartans received a huge spark off the bench from Daryl Anderson, scoring 17 points with a game-high four 3-pointers.
The Spartans got moving quickly, as Tyrese Jenkins and Dana Tate Jr. got NSU on the board with back-to-back baskets. The teams remained neck-and-neck early until Anderson knocked down his first 3-pointer of the night to put the Spartans ahead by six.
Kris Bankston made his presence felt with a hook shot and dunk on consecutive possessions before Anderson hit another long ball extending the lead to eight. Anderson’s third 3-pointer came just a few moments later, and Bryant connected from deep once more, pushing the gap to double digits.
Norfolk State continued their strong finish to the first half, heading to the break ahead 41-29. The Spartans shot 15-of-22 from the floor in the first half (68.2 percent), finishing the game with a 59.6 percent clip, the Spartans’ most efficient shooting night of the season.
Tate kept the momentum going in the second half with a strong score in the paint before Bankston swatted an opposing jumper at the other end. Cahiem Brown got to the rim for a two-handed dunk, eventually finishing the evening with 13 points, going 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
South Carolina State kept the game from getting out of hand, however, thanks to strong performances from Cameron Jones and Latavian Lawrence. The Bulldogs continued to chip away at Norfolk State’s advantage until SCSU pulled within four just before the two-minute mark.
After Bankston made one of two attempts at the line for the Spartans, South Carolina State had a chance to cut the lead to one possession. But sophomore guard Terrance Jones ensured no such comeback would occur, coming away with a steal and scoring on the other end with a foul for an and-one.
The ensuing free throw put the Spartans ahead by seven, providing the boost NSU needed. The Spartans ended the game on a 9-2 run in the final 80 seconds of play, closing out the victory in emphatic fashion.
North Carolina Central defeated Howard 68-60 shortly after NSU’s win, moving the Spartans into a tie for first place in the MEAC standings with the Bison.
Courtesy: Norfolk State Athletics