NORFOLK, Va. – A late push by the Norfolk State men’s basketball team pushed the Spartans past rival Hampton by a 63-60 score on Saturday evening in the Battle of the Bay at Joseph Echols Hall.
In front of a sellout, standing-room only crowd of 4,953, NSU fought back from a seven-point deficit with less than nine minutes to go. An 11-2 run late in the game proved to be the difference in a back-and-forth contest that saw 12 lead changes, eight in the second half alone.
The game was not without its drama, though, as Hampton had a shot to tie it up with time running down. The Spartans, following that 11-2 run, were up 63-56 with less than two minutes remaining. Brian Darden drained a 3-pointer on Hampton’s next possession and later went 1-of-2 from the line with 50 seconds to go to cut the Spartan lead to just three.
Senior Jamel Fuentes corralled the offensive rebound after a 3-point miss by NSU, but Hampton got the ball back when Fuentes just barely stepped on the sideline. Darden’s wild 3-point attempt with 11 seconds left was blocked, but the Spartans missed both free throws with 7.4 seconds to go. Hampton was unable to get the ball up the court quickly, and a half-court shot clanked off the iron.
The victory pushed NSU’s record to 15-9 overall and 8-1 in the MEAC. The Spartans won their fourth in a row and sixth in the past seven games, in the process maintaining sole possession of second place in the league. The victory also secured NSU’s 17thstraight season with a .500 or better record in MEAC play.
Hampton fell to 8-13 overall and 4-5 in league play following its fifth-straight loss.
The win, coupled with the Spartan women’s victory earlier in the day, gave Norfolk State a doubleheader sweep of its fiercest rival for the first time in eight years.
NSU won despite an off night shooting. The Spartans hit just 2-of-14 from 3-point range and 25-of-59 overall (42.4 percent) after hitting better than 60 percent in each of the last three contests.
Junior D’Shon Taylor led the Spartans with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go with eight rebounds. Junior Jeff Short added 15 points, while junior RaShid Gaston tallied 13 points, eight boards and three assists on his 21st birthday.
Up by six at the break, the Spartans extended the lead to nine, 33-24, early in the second half when Taylor made a layup and the free throw on a fastbreak 3-point play. Hampton, though, scored 10 straight to go up by one, 34-33, at the 15:41 mark.
The lead continued to go back and forth until a 3-point play by Deron Powers and trey from Darden capped a 10-2 run for the Pirates. Down 49-42 at that point with less than nine minutes remaining, NSU stopped the bleeding with a trey from Taylor from the right wing. Senior Malik Thomas found Gaston over the top of the defender for a layup to finish an 8-1 spurt and tie it up at 50-all with just 6:36 on the clock.
A little later, NSU sank 5-of-6 from the free throw line to ignite the late 11-2 run. Gaston capped it with an alley-oop fastbreak dunk at 1:57 for a seven-point edge, 63-56.
Dwight Meikle led Hampton with 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting and nine boards, helping the Pirates finish with a 38-34 edge on the glass. The rest of his teammates, though, finished just 14-of-44 overall.
NSU had a 38-26 advantage in points in the paint. The Spartans also committed just eight turnovers after having more than 20 each of the past two games.
The Spartans held Hampton scoreless for a four-minute stretch early in the game, and Thomas’ drive to the hoop put NSU ahead, 9-6, at the 13:40 mark. The Pirates scored four straight to take the lead, but Taylor had a shot-clock beating jumper in the lane and a thunderous alley-oop dunk to put the Spartans ahead.
A pair of free throws by junior Hefeng Sun stretched the lead to 17-10, at the 7:08 mark, and he made a pair of buckets within the next two minutes to keep the Spartans ahead. The Pirates cut the deficit to three several times, but Taylor’s jumper in the lane off a free throw miss with less than 30 seconds left made it 28-22 at the break in favor of NSU.
Sun finished with a career-high six points, while senior LaTre’e Russell added six points and five boards for the Spartans.
Hampton shot 23-of-57 (40.4 percent) overall but just 5-of-23 from beyond the arc.
NSU will host Howard next Saturday at 6 p.m. at Echols Hall.
Originally Posted By NSUSpartans.com