Late second-half run lifts Norfolk State

norfolk stateA 13-1 run late in the game put the Norfolk State men’s basketball team on top, and the Spartans finally hit their free throws to pull out a 76-70 win over UMES on Monday night at the W.P. Hytche Athletic Center.

NSU trailed during the latter stages of the first half and most of the second, but the Hawks went cold for nearly a five-minute span late in the game to open the door for the Spartans. Norfolk State used that dry spell by the Hawks to pull ahead for good.

Sophomore Jordan Butler finished two 3-point plays to get the run going, and by the time it ended with 1:15 on the clock, the Spartans went from down six with six minutes left to ahead by six, 70-64. UMES went five minutes without a bucket, as NSU built its largest lead of the game.

There was still some drama at the end, however, as the Hawks cut the lead to four on a layup by Dominique Elliott and then to two on two free throws by Elliott with 43.7 seconds left. On the other end, senior D’Shon Taylor went to the line with 26.4 seconds to go.

He made the first but missed the second, but UMES was unable to corral the rebound as it went out of bounds. NSU had the ball back, and junior Jonathan Wade sank two from the line with 22.8 seconds on the clock after an inbounds pass.

Devin Martin missed a 3-pointer on the other end, and the Spartans shot 3-of-4 late in the game to finish the victory.

The win improved the Spartans’ record to 12-13 overall and 8-2 in the MEAC. After connecting on just 31 percent from the foul line in the first half, NSU hit 21-of-23 in the second to end the game 25-of-36 overall (69.4 percent). NSU scored its last 14 points of the game on free throws.

Senior Jeff Short led the Spartans with 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-10 from 3-point range. Taylor and sophomore Jordan Butler each added 16 points, with Butler hitting 7-of-9 from the field with eight rebounds. Taylor, meanwhile, made 7-of-11 from the line and also posted eight boards, three steals and two assists.

Martin had 20 points to lead UMES (8-17, 5-5), which had won four in a row coming into the night, including over league leader Hampton on Saturday. He hit five of the Hawks’ 13 treys in the game. They finished 13-of-29 overall from long range, while the Spartans shot just 7-of-21.

After wins by Hampton and South Carolina State (both 9-2) on Monday night, NSU stayed within a half game of first place in the league.

NSU shot less than 36 percent in the second half, which began with the Spartans down by five coming out of the break. The Spartans got to within one early in the second stanza on a 3-point play by freshman Alex Long. Martin again had an answer, this time a 3-pointer from the left wing. NSU finally went ahead, its first lead in 11 and a half minutes of game action, after Butler’s dunk at 14:33 capped an 8-3 run and made it 50-49.

After Taylor’s 3-point play at 11:05 put the Spartans ahead by one again, Dontae Caldwell sank two 3-pointers to put UMES on top. The Spartans went more than five minutes without a bucket, and UMES jumped to a 63-57 advantage on Martin’s fifth 3-pointer of the game at the 6:19 mark.

The Hawks, though, went cold from there, as NSU closed the game on a longer 19-7 run.

Short converted a pair of 3-pointers to get the Spartans going at the start of the game, but Ryan Andino answered with two of his own on the other end for UMES in a tight start to the contest. The second of those tied the score at 21-21 with 12:34 on the clock, but two free throws by Taylor marked the only scoring in the game in a five-minute span.

Taylor’s drive to the hoop with a little more than seven minutes left in the half finally ended that drought, but Martin made a pair of treys and then Caldwell drained one of his own for a 32-27 lead.

After Short answered with his fourth 3-pointer of the half near the left wing, the Hawks scored seven straight to open a nine-point edge with a minute to go in the half. Taylor made a 3-pointer and went 1-of-2 from the foul line in the last minute of play to cut the Hawk lead to 39-34 at the intermission.

Taylor made all four of the team’s free throws in the first half, but the Spartans hit just 4-of-13 before the break. NSU did shoot 6-of-10 from 3-point range, but UMES countered by connecting on 8-of-17 from long range in that first stanza.

The Spartans only hit 1-of-11 from the 3-point line in the second half.

Caldwell tallied 18 points for UMES on 4-of-6 3-point shooting, while Elliott also added 13 points and 12 rebounds. The Hawks shot 20-of-50 overall for the game (40.0 percent) and 17-of-24 from the charity stripe.

NSU hit 22-of-54 (40.7 percent) from the floor. Sophomore Zaynah Robinson also reached double figures with 12 points while adding five rebounds and five assists.

The Spartans outscored UMES 28-12 in points in the paint, 14-8 in points off turnovers and 13-7 in second chance points.

Norfolk State will head back home to host Morgan State on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Joseph Echols Hall.

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