ST. THOMAS, USVI – The Norfolk State men’s basketball team hit a school record 14 3-pointers from just three players, but its furious comeback against DePaul on Monday afternoon came up short at the end in an 82-78 loss. Down by two, NSU’s last possession shot was blocked as the Spartans fell in their final game of the 2015 Paradise Jam at the Sports & Fitness Center on the campus of the University of the Virgin Islands.
NSU (1-4) nearly pulled the upset, overcoming a 14-point second half deficit when its 3-point shooting began to heat up. The Spartans hit 10 of their treys in the second half and finished the game 14-of-28 from long range.
That shooting allowed NSU to gain on the Blue Demons at the exact right time. DePaul was up by double-digits for a good portion of the first 10 minutes coming out of the half. Aaron Simpon’s fastbreak layup made it 62-48 and gave the Blue Demons their largest lead of the game with 10:51 left.
The Spartans answered with a 12-2 run, scoring nine of those points within a 30-second span on treys from seniors D’Shon Taylor and Charles Oliver and then a 3-point play by senior Jeff Short. Then on NSU’s next three possessions, Taylor drained a 3-pointer and Short followed with two more of his own to tie the game at 66-66.
That completed a longer 18-4 run that lasted just three and a half minutes and ended with 7:38 still left on the clock.
DePaul scored eight of the next 11 points in the game, but sophomore Zaynah Robinson hit a pair of free throws and Oliver’s 3-pointer in transition tied it up again at 74-74. Short then got fouled with 2:22 to go and sank both from the charity stripe for NSU’s only lead of the second half.
A pair of buckets by the Blue Demons put them back ahead by three with a minute left. After Robinson’s jumper with 19.0 seconds left cut the deficit to one, NSU’s last possession attempt down by two with time running down was blocked.
DePaul (2-3) iced the win with two free throws at the end.
NSU made nine 3-pointers in a row and shot 10-of-14 for the second half.
Taylor finished the game with game highs of 23 points and nine rebounds to go along with a career-high five assists. He sank 7-of-12 overall and 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
Oliver provided NSU with a big spark, hitting 7-of-11 overall off the bench and a career-best 6-of-9 from 3-point range for a 20-point afternoon. Short made 3-of-5 from long range and 5-of-10 overall for 16 points. Oliver hit the most 3-pointers by a Spartan player since Malcolm Hawkins tied the school record with eight against North Carolina Central on March 6, 2014. Oliver also finished one point short of his career high of 21 from the first game of the season at South Carolina.
The previous school record for treys was 13 set against North Carolina A&T on Feb. 24, 2007.
Taylor and Short hit a pair of 3-pointers at the start of the game, but Short picked up his second foul just five minutes into the contest and was forced to the bench. In his place, Oliver sank a pair of treys, and sophomore Jordan Butler made a pair from the line at 12:11 for a seven point edge, 16-9, the largest of the game for NSU.
After Robinson gave the Spartans another seven-point lead with a layup just over a defender, the Blue Demons used a 9-2 run to tie the game at 20-20 at the 8:11 mark. DePaul tied it up several more times before Tommy Hamilton drained a 3-pointer to put the Blue Demons in the lead, 31-30, with 4:27 left before the half.
That bucket began a closing 10-1 run that put them ahead by a 38-31 lead going into the intermission.
Hamilton added 20 points for the Blue Demons, while Billy Garrett added 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting as well as 8-of-11 from the foul line. Hamilton was perfect from the field (8-of-8) and 3-point range (2-of-2) and also made both of his foul shots.
For the game, DePaul shot 27-of-46 (58.7 percent) overall and 6-of-18 from 3-point range. NSU came into the game hitting better from deep than overall and continued that trend by shooting 26-of-58 overall (44.8 percent).
The teams also combined for just 14 turnovers, although DePaul outscored the Spartans 30-16 in points in the paint.
Robinson chipped in with 10 points for NSU, which had a 13-6 assist-turnover ratio for the game.s