NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Joe Bryant showed off his skills in Norfolk playing his high school basketball at Lake Taylor. Now he's turning heads in his own backyard at the college level.
Bryant and Norfolk State used a strong second half to roll past Morgan State on Monday night, 82-62, at Echols Hall. The win marks the Spartans' fifth straight victory and improves their record to 14-4 overall, 5-0 in MEAC play. It was an impressive performance in the second 20 minutes, after NSU seemed to let up a little bit during that stretch during Saturday's win over Coppin State.
"Last game we [were] up 20, we just let our foot off the gas a little bit," Bryan said after Monday's win. "This time we just kept our foot on the pedal and kept the pressure on them."
Bryant was part of the pressure, one of three Spartans who scored 18 points in the victory over the Bears, along with Christian Ings and Jalen Hawkins. The Lake Taylor product has been on a tear during Norfolk State's five MEAC games so far, averaging 21.6 points per outing during that span. He set the tone for league play with a season-high 29 points in the conference opening win over Delaware State and is currently the MEAC scoring leader at 16.1 points per game. Entering Monday, Bryant was sixth in the nation with a 93.2 free throw percentage.
"Joe is the engine," Spartans' head coach Robert Jones noted. "His energy, his leadership, Joe knows everything that's going on. He helps out the guys defensively and offensively and he's been battle tested. This is his fourth year."
Perhaps the best part of the experience for Bryant is that he gets to shine in his hometown. The Norfolk native is making noise at the Division I level just four miles from where he shined in high school, so his family and friends have no trouble seeing him play in person.
"It means a lot," the senior said of playing in Norfolk. "This is my home. This is where I grew up, I grew up around this area, so it's basically like playing in my backyard."
"It's going to show other kids from the area that they can come to Norfolk State and have a great college career and hopefully take it to the next level, too," added Jones.
The Spartans are back in action on Saturday when they travel to South Carolina State, seeking a 6-0 start in MEAC play. Tip-off is set for 4:00 PM.