NORFOLK, Va. – Victoria Gonzales hit two free throws with 0.5 seconds left, and officials ruled that Kayla Roberts‘ off-balanced 3-pointer at the buzzer was not released in time, giving Howard a 64-63 win over Norfolk State on Monday night at Echols Hall.
Gonzales led all players with 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Bison (6-23, 4-12), who avenged a 110-108, double-overtime loss to the Spartans (2-23, 2-13) from Feb. 6. Brehanna Daniels scored a career-high 17 points to pace the Spartans.
NSU trailed 62-57 in a see-saw affair with 1:38 remaining. But Koryn Lawrence made a layup and Siobhan Beslow made two free throws to bring NSU within 62-61. The Spartans then forced a tie-up at the other end, giving NSU the ball on the alternating possession. Gonzales slammed the ball to the floor following the jump-ball, resulting in a technical foul. Beslow then sank two free throws with 42.3 seconds remaining to give the Spartans a 63-62 lead.
The Spartans came up empty on the ensuing possession. But they appeared to be in good shape as Lawrence nearly came up with a steal in the closing seconds. But the loose ball was again tied up, this time giving Howard the ball on the alternating possession. Gonzales received the inbound pass and missed a jumper, but officials whistled NSU for a foul on the shot with 0.5 seconds left. Gonzales made both free throws for a one-point edge.
NSU called timeout to advance the ball to half-court. Kiara Phillips inbounded to Roberts, who appeared to make a leaning bank shot from 3-point range as the buzzer sounded. Officials originally ruled the shot good, but after a courtside review of the play showed that the shot did not leave Roberts’ hand in time, giving the Bison the win.
The Spartans led by five, 55-50, after a Lawrence layup with 7:16 left. But the Bison went on a 10-0 run over the next 3:52, with Gonzales scoring six points and Imani Bailey four in the spurt. But this time it was NSU’s turn to rally, forcing four Bison turnovers in the final 3:03 to set up the dramatic closing sequence.
The Spartans started off the game clicking on both ends. Seven different NSU players scored in the first quarter, when NSU shot 44 percent (7-of-16) from the floor. The Spartans also held Howard to 3-of-20 shooting (20 percent) in the period, which ended with NSU holding an 18-6 lead.
Gonzales brought her team back, scoring 12 points in the second quarter alone as Howard closed to within 31-27 at the half.
Lawrence hit a 3-pointer on NSU’s first possession of the third quarter to stretch the lead to 34-27. But the Bison responded with a 10-0 burst over the next four minutes to claim a 37-34 advantage on a Te’Shya Heslip layup. That would be the first of eight lead-changes in the final six minutes of the quarter, which ended with the Spartans ahead 49-48 after two Shayla Tanner free throws.
Lawrence and Roberts scored 11 points apiece for NSU. Lawrence had a career-high seven of NSU’s 13 steals, the most by a Spartan since Whitney Long also had seven against Delaware State on Feb. 18, 2012. Below had eight points, nine rebounds and four blocks, while Roberts added three blocks. Tanner matched Beslow and Roberts for team-high honors with nine rebounds.
The Spartans held Howard to just 29 percent shooting while registering season highs of nine blocked shots and 13 steals. NSU was hurt, however, by 29 turnovers which led to 30 Howard points.
Bailey was the only other Howard player in double figures, with 17 points (11-of-12 from the free-throw line).
The Spartans close the regular season with a 6 p.m. matchup Thursday against Hampton in the Battle of the Bay.
Originally posted on NSUSpartans.com.