Long has career game, but Norfolk State falls to Kent State, 78-67

norfolk stateAlex Long produced a career day with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but Kent State used a strong second half to hold the Spartans at bay in a 78-67 win over the Norfolk State men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon at the M.A.C. Center.

The senior shot 11-of-17 from the floor for a new career high in scoring and his first double-double of the season. Junior Nic Thomas also scored in double figures with 14 points, all but one of them in the second half.

The Golden Flashes, however, shot nearly 58 percent in the second half, surging ahead by as much as 18. The Spartans got to within six midway through the second period before KSU went back up by double digits for nearly the rest of the way.

Kent State (7-1) got a balanced scoring effort, with Philip Whittington leading the way with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds. He was one of four players to reach double figures for KSU.

NSU (4-6) had a much stronger second half after the Spartans made just 29 percent in the first. They made 53 percent from the field in the last 20 minutes as well as 12-of-14 from the free throw line.

The Spartans fell behind 30-21 at the break before Thomas and Long led the way in the second. Long added 18 of his points after intermission, including the last 10 of the game for the Spartans. He and Thomas combined for 31 of the team’s 46 points in the second half, 25 more points than NSU scored in the first.

The last 20 minutes proved to be a period of runs. Up nine at the half, Kent State hit a trio of 3-pointers early in the second for a 39-25 edge. NSU, however, countered with an 8-2 run to close the gap to eight, 41-33, with Long scoring six of those points. Kent State responded with an 11-2 spurt to push the lead to 17, 52-35, with 11:49 to go.

But the Spartans answered right back, as sophomore Kyonze Chavis had five points during an 11-0 stretch for NSU. That made it 52-46 with nine minutes still left in the game. But right on cue, the Golden Flashes had an answer of their own. Over nearly five and a half minutes, they outscored Norfolk State 18-6 for the largest lead of the game, 70-52.

With three minutes left in the game, Thomas made two free throws and later a 3-pointer, just the second of the game for NSU, and Long scored the last 10 points as the Spartans got to within 11 by the end.

KSU benefitted from a 6-of-12 effort from the 3-point line in the second half, part of a 40 percent day (10-of-25). The Golden Flashes shot 45 percent for the game from the floor on 25-of-56 shooting.

The Spartans committed 21 turnovers on the afternoon.

Both teams started off slow, with Kent State leading 6-5 six and a half minutes in. After senior Armani Branch’s fastbreak layup tied the game up, KSU’s Jaylin Walker made three consecutive 3-pointers during an 11-1 for the Golden Flashes that put them ahead 20-10 with 9:49 left in the half.

The Spartans scored the next five, but Kent State scored eight of the next 10 points for a 28-17 advantage with four minutes left in the half. KSU only made 33 percent in the first period on the way to a 30-21 edge at intermission.

Walker totaled 15 points with five rebounds and four assists, making 4-of-7 from the 3-point line. Antonio Williams (14 points, 5-of-9 shooting) and Jalen Avery (11 points, five assists) also reached double figures.

But thanks in part to Long, NSU held the edge in the rebounding column, 35-28. The Spartans also ended the game 21-of-28 from the foul line and 43 percent from the field (22-of-51). The trio of Chavis, sophomore Mastadi Pitt and junior Steven Whitley each scored seven.

NSU will get more than a week off for finals before returning to the court on Dec. 12 at Rider.

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