NORFOLK, Va. – It’s win or go home time for the Norfolk State men’s basketball team. The No. 2 seed in the MEAC tournament for the third straight year, the Spartans (15-15 overall) will take on No. 7 seed South Carolina State on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. in the quarterfinal round at Scope Arena.
The Bulldogs (11-19 overall) advanced after defeating Florida A&M on Tuesday night in overtime in the tournament’s first round by a score of 82-78.
All games at the MEAC tournament will be shown live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN. Wednesday’s contest will also be broadcast live on Star 1310 AM as well as Hot 91.1 FM with Ross Gordon and Julee O’Neal on the call. Live audio is available through www.star1310.com as well as hot91.nsu.edu:8000/128. Both feeds are available on smartphones through the Star 1310 website or through www.TuneIn.com or the TuneIn Radio App (search for “WNSB”) for Hot 91.1.
Fans can also follow along with live stats.
Norfolk State won both of this year’s meetings to run its series record to 21-18, the closest of any MEAC team against the Spartans. NSU has also won five of the past six, although the one loss was a killer, a 67-65 setback to the Bulldogs last year in the MEAC tournament semifinals. The Spartans are 13-6 against S.C. State since 2006-07.
This will mark the fifth time the two teams have met in the tournament and the third straight year, with both teams winning twice. The Spartans also were victorious as a No. 2 seed against a No. 7 seed S.C. State team in 2015. Last year, the Bulldogs won as the No. 3 seed over the No. 2 seed Spartans. Norfolk State fell in 2005 as a No. 5 seed (to No. 4 S.C. State) but defeated the No. 2 Bulldogs as a No. 3 seed in 2009 as well.
About South Carolina State
The Bulldogs used an 11-0 run in overtime to pull ahead of Florida A&M for good on Tuesday night in S.C. State’s win over the No. 10 seed Rattlers. FAMU had jumped ahead by five at the start of overtime after S.C. State’s Eric Eaves made two free throws with less than five seconds to go to tie the game in regulation. The team’s leading scorer at 16.2 points per game and a second-team All-MEAC performer, Eaves had just seven against FAMU. Edward Stephens led the way with 24, bumping his season average to 9.2. In addition, Tashombe Riley (11.3) and Greg Mortimer (10.5) also score in double figures for a team that averages 69 points per game but gives up almost 80. Riley also averages a team-best 5.1 rebounds for a squad that owns a -6.3 rebounding margin but turns the ball over just 12.5 times per game. South Carolina State went 7-9 in the MEAC this season.
Last Time Out
Hampton outscored NSU 25-9 to close out the game and earn a 63-59 win over the Spartans on Feb. 27 at Hampton. NSU led by 12 with 9:44 left in the game, but Hampton went on a 17-2 run, part of that larger closing spurt, to take its first lead of the game. The Spartans shot just 33 percent for the game while holding the Pirates to 30 percent, including less than 20 in a first half in which both teams seemed to doing too much in front of an ESPNU audience. Jonathan Wade led Norfolk State with 19 points and nine rebounds. The teams tied on the glass at 49-49, and Norfolk State also had 21 offensive boards, the most in three and a half years.
Norfolk State finished 12-4 and in sole possession of second place this year in the MEAC. It marked NSU’s third-straight 12-4 conference record. The Spartans also continued their streak of finishing no worse than tied for third each of the last six years now, the only program in the league to do so. NSU has now finished fourth or better in the MEAC in 10 of the last 11 seasons.
This season, NSU finished behind first-place North Carolina Central (13-3) and ahead of Morgan State and Hampton (11-5). Savannah State also went 10-6 but was ineligible for the MEAC tournament. The Spartans ran off 10 straight MEAC wins at one point, tied for the second-longest win streak in the school’s Division I history.
• Earned 1st-Team All-MEAC honors
• Averaging 10.6 rebounds last 8 games and 20.6 points last 14 games
• Has made 54-of-68 from the free throw line last 8 games, including career-best 12-of-14 at South Carolina State
• Has scored in double figures in all 30 games
• Averaged 8.0 rebounds in MEAC play
• Ranks 4th in the nation in largest increase in points per game from last year (+13.7) behind Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman (+16.5), Northeastern’s T.J. Williams (+14.6) and Hawai’i’s Noah Allen (+14.5)
• Ranks 2nd in the MEAC in scoring (19.6), 3rd in rebounding (6.9) and defensive rebounds (5.2), 5th in 3-point field goal percentage (39.3), and 8th in field goal percentage (48.1) and minutes (34.5)
• Ranks 47th in the nation in points per game (19.6), No. 116 in double-doubles (7), No. 119 in minutes (34:28), No. 148 in field goal percentage (48.1), No. 161 in defensive rebounds (5.20) and No. 201 in rebounds (6.9)
• Stands No. 588 in NCAA Division I career records in points (782)
• Ranks 3rd in NSU Division I records in free throws made (147), 4th in free throw attempts (198), 5th in points (588) and scoring average (19.6), 9th in field goals made (193), 10th in field goal attempts (401), 11th in 3-point field goal percentage (39.3), 13th in 3-point field goals (55) and 14th in rebounding average (6.9)
• Ranks 9th all-time at NSU in 3-point field goal percentage (37.8), 14th in free throw percentage (76.6) and 20th in 3-point field goals (74)
• Posted 6th double-double in 7 games with 16 points and 11 rebounds against Howard
• Earned 2nd-Team All-MEAC honors
• Averaging 16.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 steals last 8 games
• Averaged 14.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.0 steals in MEAC games
• Has played at least 36 minutes in 12 of the last 15 games, including all 40 minutes in four contests as well as a career-high 49 at Florida A&M
• Has tallied 12 or more points in 13 of the last 17 games
• Ranks 1st in the MEAC in assist-turnover ratio (3.0) and steals (1.7), 4th in assists (4.4), 5th in minutes (35.0), 15th in free throw percentage (74.7) and 18th in scoring (12.9)
• Ranks 16th in the nation in assist-turnover ratio (2.95), No. 78 in minutes (35:02), No. 100 in steals (1.66) and No. 106 in assists (4.4)
• Stands No. 176 in NCAA Division I career records with 264 assists and No. 786 in points (670)
• Ranks 4th in NSU Division I records in assist average (4.38), 5th in assists (127) and 13th in 3-point field goal attempts (154)
• Ranks 14th all-time at NSU in 3-point field goal attempts (271), 16th in assists (264) and 18th in 3-point field goals (89)
• Averaging 9.0 points last 3 games
• Averaged 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in MEAC games
• Ranks 1st in the MEAC in blocks (1.8), 6th in rebounding (6.8), 7th in offensive rebounds (2.2) and 8th in defensive rebounds (4.6)
• Ranks 50th in the nation in blocks (1.84), No. 213 in rebounds (6.8) and No. 233 in offensive rebounds (2.20)
• Stands 24th in NCAA Division I career records with 156 total blocks, 38th with a 1.70 blocks-per-game average, No. 210 in rebounds (498) and No. 1,099 in points (525)
• Ranks 9th in NSU Division I records in blocks (46)
• Ranks 3rd all-time at NSU in blocks (156)
• Averaging 7.8 points with 2.0 blocks the last 4 games
• Ranks 3rd in the MEAC in blocks (1.4), 12th in defensive rebounds (4.1) and 14th in rebounding (5.5)
• Ranks No. 108 in the nation in blocks (1.41)
• Ranks 10th in NSU Division I records in blocks (41)
• Ranks 14th all-time at NSU in blocks (76)
• Grabbed career-high 7 rebounds at Hampton
• Averaging 4.6 points last 11 games and 5.0 rebounds last 7 games
• Ranks 10th in the MEAC (1.0) and No. 227 in the nation in blocks (1.03)
• Posted 7th double-digit scoring game of the season with 13 vs. Howard
• Averaging 4.3 points last 3 games
• Averaging 4.5 points last 6 games and 3.8 rebounds last 4 games
This season, NSU secured its 19th straight season with a .500 or better conference record. In fact, in Norfolk State’s 62 seasons in either the EIAC, CIAA or the MEAC, the program has had just one losing conference record (9-10 in the CIAA in 1990-91).
NSU is tied with Wisconsin for eighth in the nation for the longest streak of .500-or-better conference records in a row in Division I (See table page 6). NSU has posted 24 straight .500 or better conference records, dating back to that 1990-91 campaign.
Every other team in the MEAC has had at least one losing conference record since 2011-12.
MEAC Tournament History
The Spartans are attempting to advance to the semifinals for the sixth time in the past seven years and the eighth time in the last 10 seasons. This year also marks the ninth time in those last 10 years that the Spartans entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed or better.
For the ninth time in the past 10 seasons, NSU had a first-team all-conference player. This year it was guard Jonathan Wade. The Spartans have had at least one all-conference player each of the last 14 years and at least two each of the last nine seasons.
NSU needs one more win to guarantee its sixth straight non-losing season, barring any postseason play. Prior to the start of that streak in 2011-12, NSU had a winning record just twice in 14 seasons since moving to Division I in 1997.
Clean the Glass
The Spartans were +4.6 on the glass in conference games. They own a 3-10 record this year when getting outrebounded but are 12-5 when ahead or tied in the rebound column. NSU also ranks 34th in the nation in defensive rebounds per game (27.57) and 62nd in total rebounds per game (38.07).
The Spartans rank first in the MEAC in blocks (5.5), with the next highest team being Howard at 3.8. NSU also ranks second in field goal percentage defense (40.5), defensive rebounds (27.6) and defensive rebound percentage (70.4), and third in scoring margin (-2.0) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (33.1).
Overall, the Spartans averaged 72.8 points per game and shot 43.5 percent against MEAC foes this year. The one area where NSU struggled was at the 3-point line, where the Spartans made just 31.8 percent against conference opponents. NSU is shooting just 27.2 percent from deep the last five games.
Play Some ‘D’
On the other side, NSU limited the opposition to 36.8 percent shooting, including 29.2 percent from deep, during conference play. The Spartans also held a 97-61 edge in blocks.
Overall on the year, the Spartans rank 31st in the nation in field goal percentage defense (40.5) and 80th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (33.1).
NSU has had more blocks than the other team in 14 of the last 17 games and 20 of the last 25. On the year, NSU ranks 10th in the nation in blocks per game at 5.5 and 20th with 164 total blocks.
The top five seasons in NSU history in terms of total blocks have all come within the last six years prior to this season, as the program averaged 163.3 blocks per year during that time.
NSU’s current 5.5 blocks-per-game clip stands second all-time in program history behind the 5.7 average in 2010-11.
Good from Deep
NSU has 197 3-pointers this season, the third-most in the program’s history. Only the 2011-12 team (198) and last year’s squad (242) made more.
NSU is averaging 12.9 second-chance points over the last seven games, above their season average of 9.8 on the season. The Spartans had 21 offensive rebounds at Hampton, the most since tallying 21 at Texas Southern in Nov. of 2013.
So far this season, the opposition has scored the same amount or more points in the second half than the first period in 21 of NSU’s 30 games. The Spartans, meanwhile, are scoring on average 5.8 more points in the second stanza than the first period.
The Spartans are shooting 44.6 percent overall in the second half, compared to 40.0 in the first. They are also connecting on 39.1 from long range in the second but just 28.0 percent in the first.
Don’t Turn it Over
On the year, Norfolk State is getting outscored 15.9-12.0 in points off turnovers. NSU has had more turnovers than the other team in 13 of the last 18 games. NSU did force a season-high 22 turnovers against Howard.
NSU’s turnover margin this year is -2.1, a number that fell to -2.6 in conference games.
On the year, the Spartans have a -2.2 turnover margin in the first half, a number that improves to +0.0 in second periods. They also have 95 total steals on the year in second halves compared to 59 in first periods.
NSU is averaging 7.2 steals the last five games.
NSU has a winning record against every school in the MEAC, with several of those series covering a lot of ground in the Division II era. The Spartans’ closest rival over the years has been S.C. State, in which NSU now leads 21-18. The next closest rivalry is currently North Carolina A&T (25-20).
Best in the Conference
Since the start of the 2011-12 season, NSU is 76-20 in regular season conference play (39-9 at home, 37-11 on the road), tied with North Carolina Central (76-20) during that time for the best record in the league. Counting MEAC tournament games, the Spartans are 83-23, while the Eagles are 82-24 during that time. NSU also owns a 118-83 overall record since the start of the 2011-12 season, second in the conference to North Carolina Central (127-65).
Originally published at nsuspartans.com