DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Norfolk State women’s basketball team struggled on offense for the second straight game, scoring its fewest points against a conference foe this season in a 53-44 loss at MEAC leader Bethune-Cookman on Monday night at Moore Gymnasium.
Led by junior guard Gabrielle Swinson’s 16 points, NSU (14-12, 9-5 MEAC) shook off a slow start to take a short-lived lead over the Wildcats (16-9, 12-1) in the third quarter. But the Spartans faltered down the stretch, shooting 27.5 percent from the floor for the game to finish its Florida MEAC trip 0-2. B-CU, meanwhile, clinched the top seed in next month’s MEAC tournament and no worse than a share of its second straight regular-season conference title.
To no one’s surprise, a battle of the MEAC’s two leaders in scoring and field-goal percentage defense turned into a low-scoring affair. B-CU guard Kendra Cooper scored eight early points, which included a pair of 3-pointers, as the Wildcats jumped out to a 10-2 lead. The Spartans hit just three of their first 18 field goals, yet stayed close by holding B-CU to 5-of-17 shooting in the opening quarter. Kayla Roberts’ layup with 37 seconds remaining in the first quarter brought NSU to within 12-8.
Both teams made just three field goals in the second quarter and NSU trailed 22-16 at the half. But the Spartans come out of the locker room on fire in the second half, hitting eight of their first 10 shots. Swinson had eight points in a 16-6 NSU run to start the third quarter. Her layup at the 4:28 mark of the quarter helped NSU equal its largest lead of the night, at 32-28.
But that was NSU’s last field goal of the quarter. The Wildcats outscored NSU 11-2 the rest of the period to regain control. B-CU scored six of those points at the foul line, two following a technical foul on the Spartans.
Leading 39-34 entering the final quarter, B-CU scored the first five points of the stanza to stretch its lead to double figures. The Spartans couldn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way.
Swinson finished with a game-high 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. She added four rebounds and four steals. Senior guard Dominique Harper was the only other Spartan in double figures, with 11 points. Junior Kayla Roberts chipped in with eight points and 13 rebounds.
Cooper scored 14 points and Ashanti Hunt had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats. Kailyn Williams grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked six shots. B-CU held a 49-42 edge on the glass and blocked 10 shots, helping to offset its own 31.9 percent shooting from the floor. BCU also shot 21 more free throws than NSU (33-12), outscoring the Spartans 18-6 from the charity stripe.
NSU returns to Echols Hall for its home finale on Saturday. Tip-off against Howard on Senior Day is 4 p.m. The Bison (9-4 MEAC) moved one-half game ahead of NSU for second place in the MEAC standings on Monday night, with the Spartans holding a slim lead over a pack of other teams for third place.