HAMPTON, Va. – Hampton closed the game on a 25-9 run to erase a 12-point Spartan lead, sending the Norfolk State men’s basketball team to a 63-59 loss on Monday night in front of an ESPNU audience at the HU Convocation Center.
NSU had led for the entire game up to that point, but some clutch 3-point shooting by Hampton quickly turned momentum in the second Battle of the Bay of the season. The Spartans had chances late in the game but could not convert, dealing them a difficult loss given the circumstances in their regular season finale.
A victory would have given NSU the No. 2 seed in next week’s MEAC tournament and its best conference record in four years. Instead, the Spartans need Morgan State to fall to Maryland Eastern Shore on Thursday to stay in second place. A win by the Bears would force a tie for second at 12-4 but give Morgan State the tiebreaker due to its win over NSU earlier this season.
Norfolk State (15-15 overall) got 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting and nine rebounds from senior Jonathan Wade, while no other player scored in double figures for the Spartans. They shot just 33 percent for the game even after holding Hampton to less than 20 percent shooting in the first half.
The second half was a different story, as Hampton shot 47 percent and outscored the Spartans by 10. The Pirates also made 6-of-9 from long range after halftime, with five of those 3-pointers coming during a key time in the game.
The Spartans led 50-38 with 9:44 left, the largest lead of the game for either team. But then Hampton completely woke up, hitting five of those treys during a 17-2 run that lasted three and a half minutes. By the time it was done, Hampton held a 55-52 advantage with 5:48 to go, its first lead in the game.
Trevond Barnes later scored six straight for the Pirates to push their lead to four, the final time with 1:40 to go. Wade sank a pair of free throws to cut it to two, and NSU had a chance after senior Kerwin Okoro stole the ball with 20.3 seconds left and called timeout before Hampton could force a tie up.
NSU nearly turned it over with 11.9 seconds to go, but the officials reversed the ball after going to the monitor. It did not matter, though, as Wade was called for a questionable charge with 8.3 seconds left. Still down by two, Norfolk State got a break when Kalin Fisher missed the front end of a 1-and-1. As was the case late in the game, NSU’s rebounding was not up to the task, as AJ Astroth corralled the loose ball and was fouled with 6.7 on the clock.
He sank both free throws for the final margin to improve HU’s record to 13-15 overall and 10-5 in the MEAC.
Lawrence Cooks played a big part in the win for Hampton, scoring 14 points in the second half and 17 altogether. He made 6-of-12 from the floor and 5-of-7 from 3-point range. The Pirates made 8-of-20 from deep on the night.
NSU had control from the start, as Hampton called timeout after four and a half minutes of play when the Spartans jumped out to a 10-3 lead early on. Hampton actually started the game 1-of-23 from the field and was still in single digits halfway through the first period.
Nevertheless, Hampton stayed within one possession after Jermaine Marrow’s 3-point play around at media timeout at the 7:47 mark. The Pirates later got to within one before NSU scored six straight to go ahead by a 24-17 margin. The Spartans eventually stretched the lead to eight at 31-23 after junior Zaynah Robinson sank a 3-pointer with eight seconds left in the half.
Marrow, though, made two free throws with 0.6 seconds on the clock to slice the Spartan lead to 31-25 going into the intermission. Hampton was just 7-of-39 in the half (17.9 percent). They ended the game 21-of-69 (30.4 percent) compared to 22-of-66 for the Spartans.
Cooks and Okoro each had a couple of buckets early in the second half to get their respective teams going and shake off the first-half shooting woes. Junior Jordan Butler found Wade for an open 3-pointer to get the lead to nine, and then it went to double-digits for the first time in the contest when Robinson found junior Micah Goss for a trey with 12:25 on the clock.
Wade’s fastbreak layup two and a half minutes later made it 50-38 before NSU went cold the rest of the way.
Robinson added nine points for the second most on the team. Butler, sophomore Alex Long and junior Dan Robinson each had seven rebounds – a career high for Robinson – as the teams finished tied on the glass, 49-49. The two squads also combined for 43 offensive boards.
Hampton held a 17-7 edge in points off turnovers. Fisher (12) and Astroth (10) also reached double figures in scoring, and Astroth and Barnes led the way with nine rebounds each.
NSU is the only MEAC team that will not play on Thursday. The Spartans posted a 12-4 conference record for the third season in a row.
The Spartans will either play on Wednesday of next week at 8 p.m. as the No. 2 seed or on Thursday at 6 p.m. as the No. 3 seed.
Originally published at nsuspartans.com