NORFOLK, Va. (NSUSpartans.com) - Joe Bryant Jr. scored 28 points and made all 16 of his free-throw attempts to lift Norfolk State to its first 3-0 start since 1995-96 thanks to a 66-59 win over Tennessee State in the Gateway Invitational on Saturday on Gateway Center Arena.
A career 85 percent free-throw shooter, Bryant recorded the second-best day a Spartan has ever enjoyed from the charity stripe to lead NSU over the Tigers (0-2) in the HBCU showcase event. The game was the first meeting between the teams since 1967-68.
Cahiem Brown added season highs of 17 points and six steals for NSU, which forced 30 turnovers.
Brown and Bryant both scored four points apiece during an 11-0 first-half spurt that turned a 19-14 Spartan deficit into a 25-19 lead. NSU’s sticky defense held the Tigers to just two field goals in the final 10 minutes of the opening half.
Bryant’s jumper on the first possession of the second half pushed NSU’s lead into double digits (35-25). The Spartans held TSU without a field goal for nearly five minutes early in the half, and two free throws by Brown stretched the lead to 15. A triple by Brown later in the half gave NSU a 47-31 edge, its largest of the game.
Bryant was 6-of-12 from the floor and 16-of-16 from the line. Only one time in NSU history – Ralph Tally’s 18-of-18 day against Virginia Union in 1986 – did a Spartan make more free throws in a perfect foul shooting performance. As a team, NSU shot 26-of-34 from the line.
Bryant also had eight rebounds and four of the Spartans’ 15 steals. Brown was 7-of-8 from the line and hit 2-of-5 from deep. Kris Bankston was the other Spartan in double figures, with 12 points and six rebounds.
Carlos Marshall scored 17 points and Dedric Boyd 16 for TSU.
The Spartans return home to face in-state foe William & Mary on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Echols Hall. The meeting is the first-ever between the two in a regular-season game on the NSU campus.