Norfolk State battles, comes up short in season opener at #18 Michigan

norfolk stateThe Norfolk State men’s basketball team overcame a slow first half to play #18 Michigan even in the second half, ultimately falling to the Wolverines by a 63-44 score on Tuesday night in the season opener.

The Spartans held Michigan to just 37 percent shooting for the game, including 23 percent from deep. NSU, however, scored just 13 points in the first half before getting the Wolverine lead down to 19 from 29 in the second half. That included the Spartans scoring the last eight points of the game.

Both teams also struggled from the free throw line, with each shooting less than 50 percent. Junior Nic Thomas led the Spartans with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting with five rebounds. Sophomore Mastadi Pitt added seven points, all in the second half.

Michigan only hit 2-of-12 from long range in the second half, and NSU was finally able to get its offense going. Pitt sank one from way outside the 3-point arc with the shot clock winding down, and a trey from senior Armani Branch and a driving layup from freshman C.J. Kelly made it 43-25 seven minutes in.

The Wolverines used a 15-4 run to stretch the lead to the largest of the game at 29, going ahead 58-29 with eight and a half minutes left. But the Spartans scored the next seven, including a couple of buckets from sophomore Kyonze Chavis.

Later down 27 with four minutes left, the Spartans scored eight straight points to close it out, the last on a 3-pointer from freshman BJ Fitzgerald with 51.6 to go.

The first half was a different story, as Norfolk State did not score until more than seven minutes in. The Spartans only trailed 11-2 at that point, although they later trailed 27-5 with less than seven minutes left in the half.

The deficit was down to 17 after a bucket from Thomas before Michigan went into the break ahead 32-13.

For the Wolverines, Jon Teske (13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks), Ignas Brazdeikis (12 points) and Charles Matthews (10 points, seven rebounds) provided offense as well as some prowess on the glass.

Michigan finished with a 52-40 edge in rebounding while also outscoring the Spartans 28-16 in points in the paint. The Wolverines made 22-of-60 overall (36.7 percent), compared to 18-of-59 for the Spartans (30.5 percent).

A 13-of-29 night at the foul line for the Wolverines also kept the margin closer.

They also shot 6-of-26 from 3-point range, with the Spartans at 3-of-12.

NSU returns home to face Mid-Atlantic Christian on Thursday and Clarion on Saturday, both at 7 p.m. at Joseph Echols Hall.

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