Butler posts career-high 21 in Norfolk State loss to Bucknell

norfolk stateBucknell shot almost 50 percent and made 11 3-pointers to earn an 84-58 win over the Norfolk State men’s basketball team on Thursday in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena.

In a Thanksgiving afternoon matchup, the Bison had just three players in double figures and no one with more than 14 in a balanced effort. The Spartans, meanwhile, got most of their scoring from three players, including junior Jordan Butler. He tallied a career-high 21 points, the first 20-point game of his career. He shot 7-of-14 from the field with a team-leading eight rebounds and three blocks.

The loss dropped NSU to 2-4 on the year and moved the Spartans to the 2:30 p.m. EST game (11:30 a.m. local time) on Fridayduring the second day of the tournament.

The Bison (4-2) raced out to a 17-point lead at the half, shooting 55 percent from the field while Norfolk State hit exactly 33 percent. The second half proved to be a little more even, with both teams making close to 43 percent, although the Bison still added another nine points to their lead by the end.

Aside from Butler, NSU also got double-digit scoring efforts from senior Jonathan Wade and junior Zaynah Robinson. Each added 13 points on a combined 10-of-21 shooting. Outside of the top three, the rest of the team, however, shot just 4-of-20 and scored a combined 11 points.

At the start of the game, Norfolk State had the early momentum before Bucknell took a 14-11 lead on an 8-2 run. Butler just beat the shot clock to get the Spartans to within one, but that 8-2 run for the Bison turned into a larger 21-4 spurt. Bucknell found itself up 27-13 with 8:10 left before the half after that offensive explosion.

The lead stretched to as much as 19 for the Bison, who overcame a 3-point play late in the stanza from Wade to go into the locker room up 41-24. Nate Sestina had a putback on a late scramble just before the game clock expired for the final scoring in the half.

Butler had exactly half of NSU’s points in the first half, scoring 12.

Robinson had three buckets early in the second half for the Spartans, including a layup at the 16:46 mark to make it 46-33 in favor of the Bison. They answered right back, however, using a three-minute, 13-2 run to push their lead to 24 at 59-35. Matt O’Reilly later hit two 3-pointers less than a minute apart from almost the exact same spot on the left wing to give the Bison nine treys in the game at that point.

Robinson nailed a pair of shots from long range on back-to-back possessions with five minutes left, but 21 was as close as the Spartans got the rest of the way. Robinson scored all 13 of his points in the second half.

For the game, Norfolk State shot 21-of-55 (38.2 percent) and only had nine attempts beyond the 3-point line, hitting four of those.

Bucknell shot slightly less than 50 percent from the field (30-of-61), including an 11-of-25 effort from beyond the arc. O’Reilly had four of those treys and finished with 12 points. Thanks in part to his performance off the bench, the Bison’s reserves outscored NSU’s, 38-9.

Nana Foulland added 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 11 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, helping the Bison post a 38-31 edge on the glass. The Bison also held advantages in points off turnovers (17-8) – despite have just three less giveaways than NSU – as well as second-chance (17-8) and fastbreak points (8-0).

Zach Thomas also scored 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting for the Bison.

NSU will play the loser of Sacred Heart-Northern Colorado on Friday. Bucknell will play the winner.

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