Sacred Heart Steals One from Norfolk State, 61-59

norfolk stateSacred Heart went on a late run to take the lead and stole the ball on NSU’s last-second possession to hand the Norfolk State men’s basketball team a 61-59 loss on Friday afternoon in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.

The Spartans got off to a fast start during the second day of the tournament at Orleans Arena. They were unable to maintain it despite never trailing for the first 25 and a half minutes of the game. From there, the game went back-and-forth, with nine lead changes before the Pioneers surged late and held on for the two-point win.

Norfolk State fell to 2-5 despite getting a 28-point effort from senior Jonathan Wade. He shot 10-of-16 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, with four rebounds and two assists. He was also named to the all-tournament team. But like the previous day, NSU got most of its scoring from just three players.

Junior Kyle Williams got his first start of the season and added 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, with four rebounds and two assists. Junior Zaynah Robinson made three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points, five assists, four steals and three rebounds.

The trio, though, combined for 53 of the team’s 59 points and all 11 of the team’s 3-pointers.

After going into the intermission up by three, Wade single-handily kept the Spartans in the lead early in the second half. He scored the first nine points for NSU coming out of the locker room before Sacred Heart (2-4) took its first lead of the game at 14:29 on Mario Matasovic’s reverse layup for a 43-42 edge.

It was the first of five straight lead changes in the game. Neither team scored for a four-minute span halfway through the stanza. Wade then hit a couple of jumpers, including a controversial one called a two-pointer that NSU coaches argued was a 3-pointer, that put the Spartans ahead 54-51. The lead switched two more times, with Robinson’s layup giving NSU a 56-55 advantage with just 3:24 left.

The Pioneers, though, scored the next six points before Wade’s 3-pointer with a hand in his face cut the deficit to 61-59 with 46.7 seconds left. NSU had gone 0-of-2 from the field and 0-of-3 from the free throw line between scores to allow SHU to build a late five-point edge.

After that bucket by Wade, NSU got to the loose ball with SHU on offense and called timeout to preserve the possession for the Spartans. But with time ticking down, Sean Hoehn stepped in front of an NSU pass, and Sacred Heart avoided Spartan defenders to drain the final seconds of the game.

Quincy McKnight led the Pioneers with 18 points with five rebounds Chris Robinson (12 points) and Charles Tucker (10) also reached double figures.

NSU got off to a great start to the game. Williams scored the first eight points of the game within two minutes as NSU scored the first 10 and eventually 13 of the first 17 for the early lead. Wade hit a couple of buckets to keep the Spartans ahead halfway through the opening period, and then Robinson drained a couple of 3-pointers to extend NSU’s lead to 26-19 with 5:45 left in the half.

Down 28-21, the Pioneers eventually tied the score with less than a minute left after a 9-2 run. Wade closed out the scoring by connecting on a trey from the left corner with time running down to make it 33-30 in favor of the Spartans heading in to the half.

Sacred Heart shot 22-of-47 for the game (46.8 percent), including 8-of-14 from long range. Robinson scored all 12 of his points for the Pioneers on 4-of-6 3-point shooting, as SHU hit 6-of-7 from beyond the arc in the second half. In addition, De’von Barnett added eight points and 10 boards and helped his team finish with a 20-10 edge in points in the paint

The Spartans finished 11-of-26 from 3-point land (42.3 percent) but just 21-of-53 (39.6 percent) overall. Outside of the top three scorers, the rest of the team shot just 2-of-16 from the floor, with NSU’s bench getting outscored 18-4 by SHU’s reserves. Despite having just one less turnover, NSU did outscore Sacred Heart, 20-12, in points off turnovers.

NSU will fly back home before heading back out on the road to play at Loyola Chicago next Wednesday.


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