Hampton outduels Norfolk State, 86-76

norfolk stateReginald Johnson tallied 29 points to lead Hampton to a win in the Battle of the Bay on Saturday evening, 86-76 over the Norfolk State men’s basketball team at the HU Convocation Center.

The first of two meetings this year between the two rivals went the way of the home team, thanks to a nine-point halftime lead and then a 15-4 run in the second half when the Spartans had gone up by one. The victory kept Hampton in first place in the MEAC at 8-1 while NSU dropped to 6-2 in the league and a half game behind South Carolina State.

Senior Jeff Short broke out of a slump with a 23-point night on 8-of-16 shooting, including three 3-pointers. He added four rebounds and three assists and was one of four players in double figures for NSU, which also fell to 10-13 overall.

After several games with a hot hand from 3-point range, NSU connected on just 4-of-20 for the game, part of a 26-of-66 overall effort (39.4 percent). Hampton connected on 26-of-59 (44.1 percent) as well as 8-of-21 from 3-point range.

Johnson shot 10-of-20 from the floor and led all players with five assists.

Senior D’Shon Taylor added 17 points for the Spartans and fell just short of a double-double with nine rebounds. Sophomore Jordan Butler did accomplish the feat with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting and a game-high 12 rebounds, helping the Spartans to a 40-36 edge on the glass.

Both teams got off to a slow start in the rivalry game. NSU began to pick it up, highlighted by a huge putback slam by Taylor off a Spartan miss that got the NSU crowd going. The Spartans went ahead by a 9-4 score before the Pirates cut it to two on a Jervon Pressley 3-point play at the 10:53 mark. Hampton took the lead momentarily a few minutes later before NSU scored eight straight points for a seven-point lead, 21-14.

Short made a trey from the left corner at 9:47 to cap that run, but the Pirates stayed close thanks to a pair of 3-pointers on their end. After again going up by seven after a 3-pointer from Short, Hampton scored seven straight, capped by a trey from Brian Darden, to tie it up at 27-27 with four and a half minutes left in the half.

After junior Brian Kelley hit two free throws for the Spartans, Hampton used a 16-4 run to push the lead to 10 with less than a minute left. NSU scored the next four, but Darden drained a trey from several feet beyond the left wing with just one second left to give Hampton a 46-37 lead at the break.

Darden had 14 points in the first half, while Taylor, Short and Oliver combined for 26 of NSU’s 37 points before the break. Darden finished with 16 points.

The Spartans scored the first six points out of the locker room to force a Hampton timeout, cutting the deficit to three along the way. The Pirates answered with two more 3-pointers after making six in the first half, but an 11-3 run by the Spartans, capped by a trey by Short from the left wing at 10:42, gave the Spartans their first lead of the half.

After six lead changes in just a few minutes time, the Pirates eventually scored eight straight while holding NSU scoreless for three and a half minutes. It also marked the start of a larger 15-4 run that pushed the lead to double digits with three and a half minutes left. The Spartans trailed by at least eight the rest of the way.

Senior Charles Oliver also reached double figures for NSU with 13. He hit 6-of-6 from the free throw line, part of a 20-of-22 effort for the game for the Spartans.

Quinton Chievous added 16 points and seven rebounds for Hampton, while Lawrence Cooks added 12. Chievous and Darden each went 5-of-11 overall, and Darden also connected on 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

NSU will begin a two-game road trek next Saturday when the Spartans play at Howard at 4 p.m.

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